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In fact, though, the Cuban music scene (both the musicians and the listening public) craves the exposure, interaction and vibrancy of musicians from outside the island. Over the last few years, a plethora of musicians have played at various events, from one-off concerts including Juanes, Fito Pa?ez and Zucchero as well as established annual festivals from rock (Brutal Fest) to Classical Music (Leo Brouwer) and everything in-between.
February 7-8, 2014 saw the Havana World Music Festival bring a new dimension to the scene with a massive outdoor concert alongside the Malecon at the Círculo Social José Antonio Echeverría, featuring a Who’s Who of Cuba’s best musical talent along with some great international artists.
Waving the British flag was Auntie Flo (no relation to your other Aunt Mavis) performing with Shingai Shoniwa (aka Zim Fox). For those in the know, Brian & Esa Williams have established themselves as one of the most innovative British DJs of recent years while Shingai (lead singer with the Noisettes) has a great stage presence and beautiful voice.
Objectively speaking they rocked the party both on the Friday night at the Havana World Music Festival and the next night at a separate concert alongside Cuban DJ Ivan Lejardi at Villalón Park. An outdoor rave party with 4,000 young people dancing to pounding electronic music is not the typical venue you might expect to run into the British Ambassador but, hey, this is Cuba. Maybe he was simply handing out invites to a cocktail party at the British Residence, for a few days later I ran into Shingai at a reception there. She is as charming in person as she is charismatic on stage.
The trio spent the week working with Cuban musicians in various workshops and studio sessions looking to find that synergy of Cuban talent with British nous for electronic music. We look forward to hearing the results in new collaborations. Either way, the Brits have definitely still got talent. And as for Cuba, Shingai put it best in a South London accent, ‘Absolutely Luv it’.
The British Council
By Julian Baker (British Council Director Cuba and the Caribbean)
Auntie Flo and Shingai were brought out to Cuba through the British Council and British Embassy in Havana. Already active in film and performing arts through partnerships with the Havana International Film festival and Danza Contemporanea, respectively, music is seen as another area to a connection between the young creative talent in the United Kingdom and the young creative talent in Cuba. March 2014 This article formed part of the March 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What?s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba?s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.
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