The International Pepe Sánchez Trova Festival began in 1962 in homage to local Santiago de Cuba composer José (Pepe) Sánchez (1856-1918), considered the father of Cuban trova (the troubadour genre of voice, song and poetry that is usually accompanied by a guitar). Several generations of musicians from different musical trends within trova participate in this event, including exponents of more traditional trova, of filin (an evolution of bolero and trova), and of nueva trova (the very Cuban genre of personal commentary influenced by British, US and Brazilian popular music). Santiago de Cuba—the cradle of trova—hosts this festival which takes the city’s streets and parks by storm in a celebration where musicians and singers from abroad join their Cuban counterparts. La apertura of the festival on Troubador Day, March 19th, commemorates the anniversary of the birth of Pepe Sanchez.
The festivals have been held since 1962, congregating musicians who belong to different generations and tendencies within the genre of Trova covering everything from its most traditional interpreters to the various artists espousing what has come to be known as “new Trova.” Santiago de Cuba is touted as being the “cradle of Cuban music” and this event spills over from the established theatres into the streets and parks, providing possibilities for Cuban and foreign musicians in similar genres. March 19th has been designated as Troubadour Day in Cuba, commemorating Sanchez’ birth and the entire city vibrates with serenades to the rhythm of the son.