Interview with Eme Alfonso, artistic director of Havana World Music festival

Eme: For me the artistic direction of the festival is an open ticket to find out about new cultures, artists from all corners of the world and the new current s in the music market. I got involved on the basis that I felt the necessity to build in Cuba a platform where you could have interesting international events and exchanges. It all began with the project ‘Para Mestizar' (mix up) overseen by UNESCO about cultural diversity, where, together with Ismael Sayyad one of the heads of the current direction of HWM we went all over the island in search of answers.

The HWM festival makes a clear place for emerging Cuban bands. How does this support for new talents come about?

Eme: It is not easy to begin a project, especially in a country that produces hundreds of professionals in the same year in this area. What happens to all this young talent? It is impossible to support all the young people equally and offer them opportunities to further their career. And I am a witness to good projects existing which need that little push or motivation. That was the excuse for creating Primera Base (First Base), a competition where all those who are under 30 can enter with an interesting and original project, and gain exposure to the world. We are going to launch the competition very soon, I make a call to all those who want to participate in HWM 2017 and share the stage with bands of incredible prestige.

And what about the workshops that you put on within the festival – what can you tell us about those?

Eme: This year we have a stage dedicated to workshops and small format bands, this is going to happen at the same time as the main stage. Many of the bands which perform in the festival will be giving master classes about their culture and their music, other workshops will take place at the Fabrica de Arte (FAC arts centre) that same week for everyone who wants to attend for free.

What do you think of the previous editions of the festival?

Eme: All the editions have something special, so far they have been very different experiences. For me the important thing is to learn from each one and correct the mistakes that have happened in order to give the public a festival of the greatest artistic quality. We plan to present the event to the world and to make this a landmark for music.

What do you expect for this 2017 HWM festival?

Eme: 2017 comes full of emotions, we are expecting bands from 10 countries, even though we are yet to be confirmed and will announce their names little by little, but I can predict that we will celebrate the music of the world in March to the utmost.

How is HWM different to other festivals?

Eme: I think the importance lies in the diversity, it is for all types of public. HWM is one of the most accessible festivals, the entrance fee is cheap in relation to other festivals and it is a way of reaching all those who like to listen to good music. We set up meetings and collaborations whose results only happen during the festival, I am talking about the many bands who come and complete their band with Cuban musicians and create something in all this exchange.

How would you define the style of music of the bands who make up the line up of HWM?

Eme: There is no specific patron to follow, the most innovative projects are those that have no rules, those that achieve a unique sound and have their own personality. As artistic director I look for bands to participate that communicate their roots through whatever genre, at the end is a festival of World Music and it is important that is cultural legacy is recognisable and its interpretation above all.

How do you rate the support of the Cuban Ministry of Culture towards the festival?

Eme: Without our institutions it would be impossible to have this festival and I am talking about the three that support us, the CNMP, ICM and MINCULT. It is a huge event and we need them above all in various organisational aspects. We have on four occasions presented our project and always we have enjoyed full acceptance, we work together and we share the same vision about the importance of spreading our roots and good music abroad and within Cuba.

Link to interview in Spanish here

Translated by Cuba50

The Havana World Music Festival takes place 23-26 March 2017

full details in English here