Cuba 15 days
May 4-18 2013 or
Cuba 8 days
May 11-18 2013
Cuba is one of the world's great musical destinations. And for the past decade, since the release of the Buena Vista Social Club CD, music has been a part of Cuba's international image. In fact there are those that credit World Circuit (the BVSC label) with helping the growth in Cuban tourism. Virtually anyone visiting Havana these days is likely to find themselves with a group of soneros strumming 'Chan Chan', but thankfully the Songlines Music Travel trip offers a good deal more than that. It's led by Philip Sweeney, author of the Rough Guide to Cuban Music and regular Songlines contributor.
Essentially Cuban music is a mix of African and Spanish ingredients (from the slave population brought to the sugar and tobacco plantations; and the Spanish colonisers). Of the original inhabitants virtually nothing remains except the maracas and the adoption of the name of one of the tribes, Siboney, by the recording studios in Santiago, where son - Cuba's most infectious fusion of African and Latin ingredients - was born.
Our journey through Cuba starts in the east, where son and the Cuban revolution began in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. And it ends in Havana, where the popular sound of mambo emerged and where reggaeton holds sway today. A journey that will introduce us to the range of Cuban music today, from Afro-Cuban rumba, to son and reggaeton - ending with three rhythm-drenched days in Havana.
All Songlines Music Travellers will receive an information sheet about the local music, plus recommended recordings and DVDs.
Cuba 15 Days Itinerary
Day 1 Sat
Today we check into our Havana hotel, meet our Songlines Music Travel Leader and talk through our musical plans.
Day 2 Sun
This morning we transfer to the airport and fly south to the small airport at Holguin. From here we drive to Baracoa. The town lies at the far eastern end of Cuba, a long way from the bustle of Havana. Here there is time to unwind and sample the local beaches and music scene.
Day 3 Mon
Today we start our exploration of the area with our travel leader, perhaps relaxing on the beach or hanging out in the town with the locals.
Day 4 Tues
Today we start our journey west across the island, driving first to Guantánamo Bay (Cuba's most famous song 'Guantanamera', is about a woman from Guantanamo - not dressed in an orange jump suit) and then to Santiago de Cuba, our first major stop. Our hotel is in the centre of town and we are well-placed to wander out into the streets of town for an initial exploration. This evening we will probably visit the Casa de la Trova, one of the best music venues in Cuba.
Days 5 & 6 Wed & Thurs
The next three days are spent in this musical heart of the island. We have arranged a walking tour of the old city, and there are optional excursions including a boat trip; but our reason for being here is of course the music. Son developed here and it was where BVSC's Compay Segundo and Ibrahim Ferrer started their musical careers. The wonderful Eliades Ochoa is still based here.
Day 7 Fri
Today we continue our progress across the island. Too many visitors to Cuba only visit the major tourism centres such as Trinidad and Havana and see little of the life of the rural communities that dot the island. Our drive today will correct that as we drive to Camagüey for the night.
Day 8 Sat
We continue west, along country roads towards the sleepy town of Trinidad. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this historic Cuban town has a laid-back feel that belies its vibrant music scene. We stay a few streets from the main square and the old part of town. In the evening we can listen to music in the square or dance until the early hours close to our hotel.
Days 9 & 10 Sun & Mon
Two days to get to know Trinidad. We have arranged a walking tour of the old town, and will be able to explore rumba, the much more African side of Cuban music thanks to the Palenque de Congos Reales. There also is free time to wander the streets of this charming place. You may want also to visit the beaches just out of town to catch the sun. There'll be plenty of music in the evening.
Day 11 Tues
Today we drive west again, at first on narrow country roads and then joining the main highway to Havana. With a stop in Cienfuegos en route we should reach Havana in the late afternoon.
Days 12 & 13 Wed & Thurs
Two full days in this musically vibrant city. We have arranged a city tour but there is also time to delve into the music of the capital, as we pick up on the mix of son, salsa, hip-hop and reggaeton that drives the city's music scene. As well as visits to learn about the recording scene here, we will visit several major music haunts during our evenings.
Day 14 Fri
A last day free, for shopping, wandering or just chilling out in the city's bars and cafés.
Day 15 Sat
After breakfast in the hotel our tour ends.
Cuba 8 Days Itineray
The 8-day trip joins the 15-day trip on Sunday May 11 2013.
Tour price (excl. flights): 15 days £1,579 and 8 days £1,350 per person
For information and reservations, call Songlines Music Travel on 020 8505 2582