Musicabana: turning Cuba into the world centre of music for a week

400,000 people turned out in Havana for the Major Lazer concert – see video here

"Musicabana is an opportunity to celebrate the place Cuba has reached in the region, and to strengthen cultural bonds at the regional level. Cuba was always the starting point, the center of the rich cultural system called the Caribbean. The idea is also that Musicabana strengthens the Caribbean as a powerful creative center, from which many of the tendencies that have a high influence on the contemporary popular culture come from," said Cuban producer Fabien Pisani, also director of the Festival, in this interview with Granma newspaper.

How is Major Lazer included in the Festival?

On November 2014, we met Diplo's team and asked him to help us with the programming of Musicabana's electronic music. The world electronic scene looks very homogenous and commercial, but several things are happening in relation to music, which are very rich, particularly in places such as Johannesburg, Luanda, Mumbai, Barranquilla, Tijuana or Rio de Janeiro.

We wanted to develop something that includes all those electronic tendencies which are not well represented, and we wanted to do it precisely in Havana. Diplo is one of the most open-minded and curious US musicians, from the musical point of view; he's always looking for opportunities to mix his music with sounds and rhythms from the South. Actually, Major Lazer is a fully Caribbean project, which includes Diplo, who was born and grew up in Florida; Walshy Fire, from Jamaica, and Jillionaire, from Trinidad and Tobago. In a purely personal sense, I have always dreamed of meeting Stevie Wonder in Havana. We have been doing all our best for over a year in order to contact him and bring him to Cuba to Musicabana.

Did any ‘requirement' have to be met in order to include groups in the Festival?

Something important to us is that we are bringing Cuban musicians who have never played in Cuba, like the French-Cuban duet IBEYI, made up of Lisa and Naomi Días-the daughters of the great musician Angá Díaz-who are currently a worldwide sensation, and who are playing in the biggest world festivals. Also Pedrito Martínez, who has defended the Cuban rumba in New York for over 15 years, and who's considered the 21st century Chano Pozo. It was also important to include Caribbean and African music, with the same idea of renewing the bridges that people have not walked on for a long time. Another important thing that we want to achieve is that the Cuban audience listens to new sounds, new musical tendencies that take time to get to Cuba sometimes.

Will Musicabana have only one edition, or will it last in time?

The objective is to work together with the Cuban cultural institutions in order to create a festival of reference. Most of the region's festivals are based in rock and roll. So, we have a good opportunity to create a festival that can become a real universal celebration of music; a festival that re-establishes bridges with New Orleans and New York, but also with Veracruz, Kingston, Port-au-Prince, Santo Domingo, Barranquilla, Fortaleza, Salvador de Bahía, Dakar and Paris. In this sense, it's our purpose not to hold a single event because as it is told, Cuba is in fashion. We are trying to create a festival that gradually turns Cuba into the center of music for a whole week every year. It's a dream that can come true.

Link to original interview here