Festivals and Events
Havana World Music 2022
Havana World Music Festival
Photo: Havana World Music
The largest World Music Festival in the Caribbean is back!
After two years of absence, the Havana World Music Festival is back in May and set to be the Caribbean's largest and most celebrated gathering of World music.
During the three-day festival, you'll discover Brazilian Jazz-Funk, Haitian Reggae, Spanish Flamenco, Latin American Hip-Hop, and of course, a myriad of Cuban artists that include Danay Suárez, and Silvio Rodriguez, a pioneer of Nueva Trova, Cuba's very own revolutionary Folk-music.
This year the festival returns to its original home, in the grounds of Club 500, located on Calzada and 12th, in the popular Vedado neighborhood. Get ready to rumbiar Cuban style alongside 10,000 festival-goers and more than 20 acts, spread across two open-air festival stages deep in the heart of Havana.
With many European and North American festivals stuck in a rut of recycled lineups, Havana World Music breathes life into a circuit numbed by predictability. So if you’re a music lover and planning a trip to Cuba, we suggest you block out your diary and get ready to break beyond the mainstream billboards and marketing, and enter into a space where one and all are free to unearth something new in one of the world's most fascinating cities.
How to get the most out of Havana World Music
We're not here to tell you how to have fun, but when heading to a festival on a Caribbean island, we know how things can easily play out: A day at the beach, a big dinner, pre-drinks at the hotel, and then time to hit the venue when the party is bubbling away nicely.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with that; however, on at least one of your days at the festival, we recommend skipping the hotel Daiquiris and heading down at 6pm to attend a Primera Base contest, an integral part of the festival that celebrates emerging artists from Cuba's music scene. Whether it be Celia Cruz, Benny Moré, Buena Vista Social Club, or Silvio Rodríguez - Cuba is right at the top of the list of contributors to the world of music, so don't let pre-drinks get in the way of spotting one of Cuba's next international hit machines.
And while on the subject of pre-drinks, balance is going to be key so that you can let loose in the festival without missing out on the best of Havana and beyond. Brutal hangovers are only made worse in tropical temperatures, so don't be that festival-goer who's face down in their hotel room at 2pm while friends are cracking open a cold Bucanero in one of Havana's public squares. Take it steady and sip lots of water throughout the day: festivals are a marathon, not a sprint.
Once your festival settings are calibrated, the only thing left to do is to let yourself be carried away by the congas of the Havana street band Gigantería, whose Afro-Caribbean rhythms and brightly colored garments will lead you between the two open-air festival stages. Each night, you’ll experience eight performances, as well as Afrobeat, Capoeira, and Breakdance classes, so come dressed with a suitable balance of swagger and comfort.
Foodwise, throughout the duration of the festival, you will be able to sample the very best Cuban street food such as typical bread with lechón (pork), churros, malanga, corn fritters, tamales, tostones, and other delicious snacks.
If you're looking to continue the "rumba" after the final act has left the stage, you will find a vast array of bars and nightclubs within walking distance of the festival venue: Mío y Tuyo is the spot for Reggaeton, Jazz lovers can head to La Zorra y El Cuervo for live bands, and Elegua is the ultimate destination for those who are eager to hit the dance floor and dance Salsa with Havana's locals.
If you're looking for an LGBTQ+ friendly afterparty, Malecón 663 is our top recommendation thanks to its drag shows and live music from some of the most important faces in the local LGBTQ+ community, such as Tony Lugones or Félix Román.
For a more 'wind down' vibe, stick around at the festival venue Club 500, grab a seat overlooking the Malecón and ask the bar staff for a Canchánchara. It's unlikely to be on the menu; however, bartenders will be happy to serve up a cocktail that dates back to the Cuban War of Independence.
Havana World Music lineup
More than 100 artists from 30 countries have performed on the Havana World Music stages, meeting an audience eager to discover new sounds: The list of previous acts includes Francisco El Hombre (Brazil), Systema Solar (Colombia), Ozomatli (United States), Sargento García (France), Instituto Mexicano del Sonido (Mexico), and Gato Preto (Senegal).
During recent years, the festival has also attracted some of the best musicians from across Cuba such as the mythical Los Van Van orchestra, the vibrant songs of Síntesis, the jazzy timba of Interactivo, or the Afro-Cuban Funk of Cimafunk, the most recent rising star of Cuban music.
For 2022, Havana World Music is set to host the likes of celebrated Brazilian singer Rodrigo Amarante, French-Cuban combo La Dame Blanche, and one of Cuba’s finest voices, Danay Suárez.
Tickets for the seventh edition of the festival can be purchased via the festival's website. That said, if you happen to be in town at the time of the event, you may still be able to grab a ticket from the venue's box office.
Check out the full Havana World Music lineup here.
Written by Lorena Sánchez.
Published October 2022.
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