Havana Club Rum is a Cuban icon known by rum enthusiasts worldwide – except in the U.S. where its importation is restricted by the U.S. embargo and its trademark is the subject of an epic legal battle with spirits giant Bacardi.
What’s not well known is the taste of Cuban culture the Cuban rum brand is promoting through its support of artists and musicians in Cuba.
In keeping with its tradition for promoting Cuban culture, Havana Club launched Havana Cultura website in 2007 as a global platform for Cuban culture, allowing artists in Havana to showcase their work via a sophisticated interactive website Havana-Cultura.com. Since then, the initiative has expanded into events and collaborations with a variety of artists.
Gilles Peterson Collaboration
In 2009, Gilles Peterson and Havana Club or “Havana Cultura” embarked on new collaborative project and long-term partnership. Peterson and his independent label, Brownswood Recordings, have produced four album releases and three international tours.
Havana Cultura: New Cuba Sound was the first album to come out of the project, released in 2010. Traveling to Cuba in 2009, Peterson teamed up with the award-winning Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca to find the best up-and-coming musical talent in Havana. The double CD album was a celebration of Cuba’s musical forces spanning Latin, Afro jazz and fusion to hip-hop, funk, reggaeton and soul.
Peterson began a European tour in June 2010, accompanied by Fonseca, his band and vocalists Danay Suarez, Ogguere and Obsesión – the first of three tours organized in collaboration with Havana Cultura. The Gilles Peterson Havana Cultura band has now traveled through Europe and beyond with shows in London (Barbican), Paris, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Berlin and Madrid, as well as at many regional festivals.
In 2011, Mala (Digital Mystikz) traveled to Cuba to collaborate with Peterson to record with local musicians as part of the ongoing Havana Cultura project. The culmination of the collaboration was Mala in Cuba, an album released by Brownswood Recordings in partnership with Havana Cultura in 2012.
“The Havana Cultura project gave me the chance to go deep in a country that had intrigued me ever since I was digging for Latin records as a young DJ,” recalls Gilles. “From the first release up to now, it’s been about taking that spirit of the Buena Vista Social Club to show a new generation of artists and opening it up to as big an audience as possible. Picking the tracks for this anthology, I wanted to show modern Cuba alongside the remixes, putting it in the context of a global club culture.”
Havana Club Rumba Sessions – La Clave
The latest chapter in the longstanding relationship between Gilles Peterson, Havana Cultura and the music of Cuba, is a feature-length documentary, La Clave. The Charlie Inman film explore the roots of rumba through interviews with leading figures of the rumba scene in Cuba — from Muñequitos de Matanzas and Clave and Guaguancó to Rumberos de Cuba, Osain del Monte, Timbalaye and Raíces Profundas.
La Clave is another chapter in a six-year relationship that is adding a new dimension and vital exposure to different aspects of Cuban’s thriving music culture. The film is about tracing the through lines running from slave communities’ spiritual drumming practices, the dancers and musicians who’ve preserved those traditions, through to the younger generation who’ve plucked out and re-contextualised the elements most exciting to them.
La Clave premiered at the Institute for Contemporary Arts on November 17th 2015 in London.