Havana World Music

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by: Freddy Monasterio

Havana World Music: Searching for a new urban choreography

The Havana World Music (HWM) festival was held for the first time this year in February at the José Antonio Echeverría Club. M Alfonso,  its artistic director, conceived the original idea as a continuity of the  ethno-cultural expedition Para Mestizar, a documented trip to geographical and imagined sources of artistic expressions scattered throughout the Island. Thus HWM re-connected with attempts to show the diversity in our cultural roots and contemporary practices, at the same time incorporating a group of artists from distant latitudes (Thea Hjelmeland - Norway, Auntie Flo - England, La Mákina del Karibe - Colombia, Fuel Fandango - Spain, among the most significant).

HWM contributed substantially to the movement of 'alternative', relatively independent events and cultural spaces that has taken place in a Cuba that is transiting, no one knows for sure where, but is moving. The most recent changes indicate some flexibility in content and organization of thriving cultural productions accompanied by talent, and the urgent message of necessary articulation of reforms to a model that has remained static for too long. Naturally, this process has revealed new tensions between official institutions and artists and organizers (perhaps most evident in the recent conflicts between the staff of Puños Arriba and Rotilla Festival, two of the most illustrative cases of alternativity within civil initiatives that have managed to transcend the limits imposed by political, cultural, and economic centralization).

In order to make up for the (logistical and ideological) limitations of the Cuban state these creative groups have established an effective alliance with foreign partners (festivals, embassies, NGOs, philanthropists, and commercial sponsors), which have played a decisive role in the success of events and spaces such as HWM, Love and Peace Havana, and Fábrica de Arte Cubano. These not-for profit initiatives have positioned themselves as accessible options for a society characterized by high levels of cultural consumption, contrasting with low levels of income, in a Cuba that points to a hybrid, confusing, incomplete project of economic policy.

The Cuban lineup for HWM was led by the unstoppable train of Van Van, together with other well-established artists such as M and X Alfonso, Síntesis, William Vivanco, Deja Vu, and Djoy de Cuba. The party was also joined by Cossiá (Haitian roots, voodoo, congó, nagó and inbó) from the eastern end, the bagpipes band Eduardo Lorenzo from the Galician Art Society and La Cinta (Ciego de Ávila, calypso). Havana once again was flooded with joy, creativity, exchange and homage. This time the novelty was the possibility of a more autonomous experience. This is how the 'new' Havana that many claim might look like. In any case, HWM adds to the attempt of a different, more participatory and independent urban choreography.





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