The Kennedy Center's two week Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World Festival kicks off Tuesday May 8th with a sold-out musical sampler show starring the Buena Vista Social Club diva Omara Portuando, and a a variety of others including the Miami-based Cuban Aymée Nuviola who played Celia Cruz in a telenovela, Cuban jazz sax player Yosvany Terry who now teaches at Harvard, the Havana Lyceum Orchestra, the flute & strings & percussion led danzon Orquesta Miguel Faílde, and more. If you weren't able to get a ticket to that, there's plenty more-- all kind of music, classic cars on display, theatre, dance, visual art, films, plus mojitos to drink and Cuban food too. Not everything requires a ticket -- there will be free performance on the Millennium Stage plus free shows upstairs on the roof level atrium every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during Artes de Cuba from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.
While nitpickers like me hoped that even more classic Afro-Cuban dance music acts who have never played the states would be part of the event, there will still be plenty of Cuban jazz, hiphop, timba & pop to enjoy (even if some of these acts have been to the DC area before). Dealing with visa issues to bring some of these acts to town couldn't have been easy. So my main two highlights --- Los Van Van, who will be in the Center's Eisenhower Theatre on Saturday the 19th, are a pioneering dance band who fuse funky, hip-hopped timba rhythms with more traditional afro-Cuban dance sounds. Although their leader,the late bassist Juan Formell has passed on, and former band members Changuito and Pupy will not be there, this act still knows hows to create scintillating dance music. The lesser known but strong Florida based Cuban timba group Tiempo Libre will be offering dance music for free Sunday the 20th from 6 to 7 pm at the Millennium Stage. I am sure some of the below musical acts will leave me pleasantly surprised (and I haven't even touched on the dance, theatre, film and visual art).
Other musical highlights:
Wednesday May 9-Yissy & Bandancha (Cuban jazz percussionist and band add electronica, jazz fusion, & funk) at 8 at Eisenhower Theatre
Thursday May 10-Adonis Gonzalez (Atlanta-based Cuban classical pianist) and percussionist Mauricio Herrera for free from 6 to 7 at Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
Yosvany Terry Afro-Cuban jazz Sextet at K. Center Terrace Gallery at 7 & 9 (both shows sold out)
Friday May 11- the flute & strings & percussion led danzon Orquesta Miguel Faílde,for free from 6 to 7 at Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
Saturday May 12-Cuban jazz Piano Marathon featuring Aldo López-Gavilán and Jorge Luis Pacheco (part of Artes de Cuba) at 7:30 PM at the Terrace Theatre (ticketed event)
Sunday May 13- Aymée Nuviola, Miami-based timba-pop vocalist with Dr. Ed Calle, saxophonist at Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre (ticketed event)
Tuesday May 15- La Dame Blanche (Paris-based Cuban hiphop singer & Latino percussionist) for free from 6 to 7 at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
Wed. May 16-Balladeer Haydée Milanés and her trio are joined by her father—singer, songwriter, and guitar player Pablo Milanés at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theatre (ticketed event)
Thursday May -17
Luis Faife and D.C. Cuban All Stars for free from 6 to 7 at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
The female duo of La Reyna (Reyna Mercedes Hernández Sandoval) and La Real (Yadira Pintado Lazcano) (Cuban rap) at the Kennedy Center Terrace Gallery at 7 pm and 9pm (ticketed event)
Friday May 18th -Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet at the Kennedy Center Terrace Gallery at 7 and 9 pm (Cuban jazz) (ticketed event)
the López-Nussa Family--Harold (pianist), Ernan (pianist), Ruy (percussionist), and Ruy Adrian (drummer)-Latin jazz at the Terrace Theatre at 7:30 pm
Saturday May 19- Los Van Van (see above)
Sunday May 20- Tiempo Libre (see above).
Pianist Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre at 7:30 pm