The Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival will bring Cuban artists to New York in August for a week of performances and other events – followed by a similar cultural exchange in Havana in February.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, a longtime Cuban Embargo opponent, have been working for years on developing cultural exchange ideas between the US and Cuba.
A contingent of American artists with Harlem connections, including Smokey Robinson, are slated to travel to Havana for a similar showcase of cultural exchange in February 2017.
The festival is designed to, “celebrate the rich artistic connection,” between Harlem and Havana, with the idea of re-igniting the historic relationship that existed between Cuban and New York jazz musicians before relations between the US and Cuba were suspended in the 1960s.
Cuban musicians, visual artists, dancers, filmmakers, chefs and educators will be highlighted during this years Harlem Week from Aug. 15-21. They include saxophonist César López and his Habana Ensemble, and pianist Jorge Luis Pacheco, a young lion who was selected by Wynton Marsalis to perform with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra during the New York big band’s trip to Havana in 2010.
NY Governor Cuomo led a state trade mission to Cuba in April of 2015. In March of this year, Congressman Rangel traveled to Havana with a delegation representing The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.
Smokey Robinson is also a Cuba travel veteran, having made the trip on behalf of the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities United States this past April.
“Havana was a Wonderful Life Experience for me,” Robinson said in a statement. “I hope this relationship with Harlem [and] Havana opens up to the point of free travel between Cuba and the United States. I look forward to returning to Havana.”
Plans for Havana/Harlem have been in development for over two years. The festival was spearheaded by Rangel and The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks and the Cuban Ministry of Culture.
Last year, the award-winning film, “We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo” premiered at SXSW in March 2015. The film examines the music that rose from the streets of Spanish Harlem and The Bronx in the 1960s and merged funk, jazz, R&B and Afro-Cuban sounds.