Guide To the Havana International Jazz Festival

If there is one thing that Cubans know how to do well, it’s party and enjoy their music. This is certainly put on full display during the Havana International Jazz Festival, which takes place at the start of every year. 

In this post, we’ll tell you a little bit more about the festival and what to expect. 

Image source

The presence of jazz in Havana

Jazz is one of the most popular musical forms in Havana, and the city’s jazz sound is certainly one of a kind. It is the result of centuries of harmonious mixtures from Spain and Africa, with influence from the United States, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, France, and China.

The sophisticated result appeals to musicians and jazz aficionados around the world! In fact, many people travel to Havana without having a particular love for jazz music, but they’re quickly converted. 

The history of the Havana International Jazz Festival

Also known as the Cuba Jazz Festival, the Havana International Jazz Festival, was born back in 1978 when a number of well-known Cuban Jazz musicians, including Bobby Carcasses, presented the first Jazz concert in downtown Havana at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza. 

The hall at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza is still one of the places where jam sessions and concerts take place. It’s a beautiful venue with a lovely intimate outdoor terrace. 

Based on the first event’s success, another Jazz Festival was lined up for the following year. Some of the artists that appeared included the likes of:

  • Danilo Perez
  • Jack DeJohnette
  • Roy Hargrove
  • Charlie Haden
  • Max Roach
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Chucho Valdes

These artists became regulars on the Havana scene. In 1996, the pianist Chucho Valdes became the festival’s artistic director and president of the Organizing Committee. The vice president at the time was Alexis Vazquez Aguilera. 

Since then, the festival has expanded considerably. Not only does it include all of downtown Havana’s main concert halls but there are also amazing impromptu street jam sessions that take place along the Malecon

Havana International Jazz Festival: Locations and venues

The Havana International Jazz Festival lasts five days. It features jam sessions, concerts, and workshops from some of the country’s best jazz experts. 

There are also photo exhibitions on display. Plus, tourists and musicians can interact with the local talent. 

Some of the main locations for the event include:

These are just a few venues that tend to feature in the five-day musical celebration. 

Image source

Nevertheless, it’s vital to note that some of the best music happens in downtown Havana due to impromptu jam sessions.

One of the main features of the occasion is the Young Jazz music competition, known as Jo Jazz, which sees young musicians compete in the lead-up to the main events. 

The grand finale occurs when the five days culminate, with Chucho Valdes performing alongside emerging and well-known talent. 

Will you be heading to the 2024 Havana International Jazz Festival?

So there you have it: everything you need to know about the Havana International Jazz Festival. If you’re looking to start next year in style, it’s time to start planning your trip to Cuba to experience this incredible music festival for yourself.