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I am about to leave on another singing adventure, this time to California, but wanted to share some things about my trip to Cuba in March before memories fade. And what an adventure it was! This was the first time I traveled with a group, including some old friends from Martha's Vineyard, with an organization called MetaMovements. Travel to Cuba can be complicated and traveling with the guides from MetaMovements made it much simpler. MetaMovements specializes in people to people exchanges exploring Cuban arts and culture. Tour organizers have worked for many years in Cuba and know lots of people in the worlds of traditional music and dance, making it easy for us to connect with singers and dancers eager to share their knowledge. Usually when I travel I know someone who can help me connect with local people but that was not the case in Cuba so I was grateful to the folks from MetaMovements who made that happen.

Our time in Cuba coincided with the annual rhythm and dance festival "Fiesta del Tambor", a seven day festival that takes place in Havana which is packed with concerts and workshops day and night. Before the festival began our small group went on an excusion to the Playa Larga area, close to where the Bay of Pigs invasion took place. We had a really interesting visit to Museo Giron, which documents the U.S. invasion. The Cuban point of view was quite different from the one I learned about in school...

Museo Giron

Museo Giron

Outside the Museo Giron - The Bay of Pigs museum

Map of the invasion routes

We spent the night in a lovely home in Playa Larga and spent the evening dancing on the beach, taking advantage of the band at the party next door!

The next morning I had a beautiful sunrise swim....

Then we visited a re-creation of a native Taino village and spent a few more hours in the water before heading back to Havana.

The following three images were taken in the area where we stayed while attending the festival. Our hosts put us up in a simple but comfortable home in the Playa neighborhood. It was nice to get a feel for the Havana where the regular people live.

Sunset from the roof of our house

The next day took us to a beach not far from Havana where we met Reynaldo who demonstrated the dance movments of the Orisha (deities) of the Santeria tradition. In the video below Reynaldo is showing us the movements typical of Ogun, the warrior god.

We also had the opportunity to play some music on the beach and spend more time in the water celebrating Yemeya - the Orisha of lakes and seas and the patron of women and motherhood.

Back to Havana and the first of many evenings to come of rhythm and dancing. Below are short videos of two of my favorite folkloric groups performing at the Karl Marx Theatre.


Los Munequitos de Matanzas

The festival focused to a large extent on the connection between Spain and Cuba and therefore we had the opportunity to witness some gorgeous Flamenco dancing.

An appropriately out of focus shot of our group at breakfast after one of our many late nights out attending concerts and dancing!

During the day we had private dance and music classes and learned about the folkloric traditions of Cuba. Dancers above are demonstrating more of the dances connected to the Orisha of the Santeria tradition.

This is Sahilys Torres - a beautiful person who taught me several songs.

Learning some new rhythms

The MetaMovements dancers demonstrating a dance form called Rueda. We learned some of the basics but this is the expert version!

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to La Colmenita - the little beehive - a wonderful organization that has become a Cuban icon. It is a musical theatre program for children which has an international reputation. The group has acted as a cultural ambassador, touring all over the world.

I was thrilled to be invited to share a song with them.

Teaching the children of La Colmenita "Dog Dog", a song from the civil rights movement by James Bevel and Bernard Lafayette that I learned from Ysaye Barnwell many years ago.

And here are the children teaching us a song which I am working on learning so that I can teach it!

The old city of Havana by day and at night....

Sunset on the Malecon

SO much beauty and always MUSIC!

Street performers

This was a band at a restaurant where we stopped for lunch. This spry lady added a dance!

Another restaurant with a slightly younger dancer!

And finally some images from a visit to Callejon de Hamel in Central Havana where every day you can see interesting art work and on Sundays you can hear excellent folkloric music and see some beautiful dancing up close.