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Bohemian Havana: An Approach to the Best Clubs in the Cuban Capital

Bohemian Havana: An Approach to the Best Clubs in the Cuban Capital

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 02, 2016

In the 20th century Havana stood out among the cities with the highest number of entertainment options. The city’s night life was famous due to the rhythm, variety and quality of such artists as Benny More, Bola de Nieve, Rosita Fornes, grand-format bands and world-class soloists, so the island was an attractive place for international visitors and artists.

This tradition is still alive, in a context of economic reforms, with the opening of private clubs, located in the most popular areas of Havana. In these places, both Cuban and international musicians find a new space to share art with their fans. PanamericanWorld visited four of the most famous clubs in the Cuban capital: King Bar, Sarao´s Bar, Corner Café and Fábrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory).

Situated in the central 23rd Avenue, between D and E streets, King Bar has been open for a year, but it has strengthened its position as one of the favorite spots for the bohemian night life in Havana. Since the very beginning, the owners tried to have different cultural offers. They started with an exhibit by painter Leticia Ortiz, and they later invited comedian Osvaldo Doimeadios and singer Maiko D’Alma. Moreover, they are organizing a theater program with the acclaimed director Carlos Diaz and they’ll also have a fashion show.

King Bar presently features two spaces for live performances: one for Reinier Mariño’s flamenco group and the other one for rapper Telmary.

Another club that shines in Havana nights is Sarao’s Bar (17th street, between E and F), perhaps one of the most internationally renowned. With a marked exclusive trend, this place stands out due to its state-of-the-art and minimalist design, and the boldface names of culture that perform there. 

Cuban singer-songwriter of fusion music, Kelvis Ochoa, holds a weekly space there, as well as small-format bands and soloists. That bar’s name has been linked to the recent presence of foreign artists in Havana, in 2015: US singer and songwriter Katy Perry spent over an hour there, not on stage, but talking to Cuban artists and figures –such as Isaac Delgado-, a development that hit the headlines on social networks and shed media attention on the bar. 

Sarao’s Bar was also the place chosen by US rappers Usher and Ludacris during their stay at the Cuban capital in September 2015, who shared stage with Kelvis Ochoa. Moreover, Leoni Torres usually performs in this bar, since he has gained momentum as a soloist after the time he spent with popular Charanga Habanera band.

Also in the area of Vedado, we find Corner Café (B Street between 1st and 3rd), which has turned live performances by different artists into one of its strong points. 

This property, just a few steps away from the seafront, is also a private venture and it follows the line of British pubs, opening in the morning and closing at night. Corner Café mainly offers performances by troubadours, exponents of Cuban fusion music or quality electronic fusion music, such as Polito Ibañez, Interactivo, David Torrens, Lopez-Nussa, etc.

Luis Enrique Gonzalez owns this club, an entrepreneur that identified a market niche and made the most of it. “When a new business opens its doors, it tries to offer things that make the difference. That’s why we aimed at the new trova. We personally like it, but we also detected the market niche, customers interested in this music, who were lacking of spaces to enjoy this offers,” he told PanamericanWorld.

One of the most attractive clubs in this changing Havana is “Fabrica de Arte Cubano” (FAC is the Spanish acronym), also one of the most prestigious projects, headed by musician X Alfonso. More than a bar, FAC is a one-of-a-kind system in Cuba that harmoniously combines photography, visual arts linked to cutting-edge technologies, dance, theater, movies, design, performance, literature and the latest works of painters. 

FAC has been strongly related to the most important events in Cuba (Havana Fine Arts Biennale, Festival of the New Latin American Cinema, Display by Young Producers), all of which has been combined with leisure and entertainment in two bars, cafeterias and spaces where soloists and bands perform live concerts.

In the same week, the nights of FAC offer from the Chamber Orchestra of Havana, a fashion show with Pret a Porter Collection, an open dance lesson, concerts by singer and song-writer Dayme Arocena, The Boys, Aurora Feliu and Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, to theater performances and movie screenings.

The success of new clubs in Havana and the cultural program offered by them not only speak of the growing popularity of these private initiatives, but the progressive revitalization of the night life; it’s an essential thermometer to understand why –and exactly where – we talk about a new bohemian style in bars, and the conquest of new segments of national and international public. 

By: Beatriz Rosales / PanamericanWorld - Havana

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