On Wednesday night I took a taxi to Jardines de 1830 and arrived early at 7 pm, exactly when the gates opened. By 9 pm the place was packed with a mix of Cubans and foreigners and the performances started. For a Cuban fiesta to be a great one you have to have enough Cubans in it. The price was only 5 CUC and as such it attracted many Cubans and some great dancers – a treat for those dancing and a feast for the eyes for those that don’t. It was just the right mix of Cubans and others.
The venue, 1830, called in Spanish mil ocho ciento trenta, is an open air location right by the water in the Vedado section of Havana and is a perfect fit with the event’s name – Fiesta Caliente. And caliente it was! The breeze from the sea and warm Cuban weather were like a candy, and the view pampering.
My friend, Orly Solomon, told the security guy to let me in. Orly, a foreigner living between Havana and Paris, was running the whole production. So how did she end up there?
Orly had a dream as a singer to meet the best Cuban artists and work with them. Not only that but to have a video clip filmed with them. And within a few years she made it all happen. She was working with some of the top band leaders in Cuba and released a few singles. One of the strongest partnerships she formed was with Maykel Blanco, the youngest band leader leading one of the top ten salsa bands in Cuba – Salsa Mayor.
Maykel is known in Havana as a person with a very entrepreneurial mind. A few months ago Maykel had a great new idea and approached Orly telling her that she was the only person that could run it properly. He recognized her skills because she helped organize many of his tours in France and he needed a foreigner that will run it effectively. Maykel’s concept was to have his own production.
Typically in the past Cuban band leaders had their concerts in famous locations and PMM, a leading Cuban production company, produced events hosting the hottest live bands, such as Maykel Blanco y Su Salsa Mayor, but mixing the night with dance performances and DJ music. Concerts were and still are mostly just about the band. Mind you, a band like Maykel’s means 13 band members, a normal size for a world renowned Cuban salsa band. Their show alone is already phenomenal. Fiesta Caliente was to host Maykel Blanco and his Salsa Mayor on a regular basis in this magnificent location as part of a whole production, a revolutionary idea in socialist Cuba and a treat for their fan base inside and outside of Cuba.
Orly pulled up her sleeves and got to work and soon enough Fiesta Caliente was running every Wednesday. And since a foreigner was running it, the gates truly opened every Wednesday at 7 pm sharp. No Cuban time! The news spread quickly and the place is now packed on a regular basis.
The night offers a mix of various dance performances, a few other acts such as magic, 3 DJs, and Maykel Blanco himself with his band. One of the DJs was Mandy, a well know and sought after Cuban DJ who works regularly in Europe and for Cuban productions. Maykel and his band took the stage at 10 pm sharp and played all of their biggest hits. They were like a cherry on top.
I ran into old dancers, new dancers, met some great new people and even Cuban friends living outside of Cuba who were touring around with students. What can I say, I was in dancing heaven. Since working on my book, My Seductive Cuba, for almost two years, I’ve had to put dancing on the backburner and I was itching to get back. I needed to express myself again and Fiesta Caliente was where it needed to happen. It took a few songs and a couple of different dance partners and I found myself standing on an elevated surface challenged by a Cuban guy to a despelote match. Let’s just say that it got really sexy. People were entertained by our sexy dancing and sexual jokes using only your bodies to express them. Cubans love to have fun. Sexiness and dance are their form of play. And when Cubans enjoy you they really make you feel it. They are very generous this way. They fueled me with their energy and by the time I got home I was still buzzing. I went straight to bed with a huge smile on my face and woke up the next morning with a stupid smile still on.
It has been decided the event will run every Wednesday if Maykel Blanco is there or not. If he is away on tour, they will host another famous band. Yes, this is the place to be in Havana on Wednesday nights if you really want to be where the action is.