Last year, The Dead Daisies, a US-Australian rock band, played in Cuba to an energetic crowd.
They spent a week playing two sold out shows, visiting music schools, recording music and taking in the rich local music culture-a first for a band after President Obama announced the re-establishment of US – Cuba relations. All Daisies members still look back with fond memories on the trip that opened the door for others and fueled the fire for their last album- “Revolución.” Unknown to the Dead Daisies when they played in Cuba, their performance would open of a floodgate of acts playing in Cuba, including many from the US.
The overwhelming response from Cuban youth offers a glimpse into what’s happening in real time as the music scene inserts itself into the narrative about Cuba’s new openness and provokes questions about what the future means for them.
It is no secret that Castro’s communist government desires connection with Cuba’s young people as the economy transitions from mostly government controlled to one that has much larger private sector participation.
Recently, Diplo and Major Lazer played a free show outside the U.S. embassy. According to Rolling Stone, this was the first major concert by an American act since the US began easing tensions with Cuba in 2014. And in an interview with Diplo, Charlie Rose says the event was supposed to attract 30-40 thousand visitors. Instead, approximately 400,000 Cubans showed up. Rose also says the young crowd was, “bonded by the music that transcends boundaries.”
There is more to come. The Rolling Stones announced last week that they will perform a free concert in Cuba on the 25th of March, a few days after President Obama’s visit. According to NPR, it is anticipated that the band will unite generations of Cubans. Older generations and their children and grandchildren will connect through the music.
On a larger scale, the arrival of the Rolling Stones and acts like Diplo and Major Lazer represent how music can unite the world. Cuba can now be apart of the wide-open music scene and hopefully bring more big acts to the once-isolated island nation.
The response of the Cuban people has been overwhelming. Following the electric show, Diplo commented in an interview with the New York Times that, “this is only the beginning.” He says kids listening and being exposed are going to change the music and bring it to another level.
There are other upcoming events in Cuba including Havana World Music 2016 on March 26th-27th. The festival features artists from Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, Canada, France, Spain, and the Dominican Republic. Havana World Music is sponsored and supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Cuba, the Cuban Institute of Music and the Government of the City of Havana.
The Manana Cuba Festival is planned for May 4-6 this year in Santiago de Cuba. It will be Cuba’s first international electric Cuban folkloric music festival. The Cuban Government has approved the event. The festival has partnered with some of Cuba’s principal cultural institutions and has teamed up with leading underground event organizer Hydra: Electric Minds; the wise heads at No-Nation; and tropical masters Sofrito. Also participating are legendary musicians such as DMZ founder, Mala; Puerto Rican breakthrough act IFÉ; “Godfather” of Cuban drumming Galis; and Santiago rumba masters, Obba Tuke.