Throughout 2019 Cuba’s capital city Havana will be celebrating its 500th anniversary of its foundation. Singing to Havana could be as old as El Morro. The city has fascinated many artists and writers and especially it has inspired musicians. Here we have 10 popular Cuban songs, about the city, recommended by Cuban media Cubahora.
- Hermosa Habana (Los Zafiros)
The song was composed by Rolando Vergara and has become a song of love for the city, adopted by several generations. Popularized in the style of Los Zafiros, what the author said once has come true: “I do not know if they will remember me, but I am sure that others, from time to time, when they look at the city, will be able to feel the sincerity of what I wrote when singing to its beauty”.
2- Andar La Habana (Ireno García)
A song overflowing with feelings and poetry, as in traditional trova. The song is part of the album Dibujando canciones that the musician presented in 2014 and was the theme of the television program of the same name presented by the historian of the city of Havana, Eusebio Leal.
3- Hoy mi Habana (José Antonio Quesada)
The song was composed in 1984 by the Cuban trovador José Antonio Quesada, but the version that is best known is that popularized by Xiomara Laugart.
- Esto no es una elegía (Silvio Rodríguez)
This song, as the singer songwriter told María Grant, editor of Opus Habana Magazine (1997), is not dedicated to Havana, but to a woman: “To a woman that I fell in love with, like when you split a Thunderbolt. I met her, suddenly, at the studio where I was recording, and I remember we went for a walk to the Malecón. I had a book of sonnets I had just finished, and we sat on the wall to talk. Then, there was a kiss, and I threw the book into the sea, the originals, 42 sheets … Of course, I did not recover it, because (laughs) I did not jump into the water after the sonnets, but I kept clinging to my kiss. Then we walked through Old Havana … That woman inspired me to write three songs, two became: ‘This is not an elegy’ and ’In these days’ “.
- Sábanas blancas (Gerardo Alfonso)
This song could be considered a mirror of the daily life of any Havana neighborhood. It is a musical image of the capital, which invites everyone who listens to it to enter into a reality as cosmopolitan as that of any other Caribbean capital, but unique as is Havana. On the subject, the trovador Gerardo Alfonso has expressed: “I am very grateful to Sábanas blancas, because besides being a song that communicates the collective feeling of the Cubans, it is also a theme that has helped me to survive all the inclemencies. Because the career of the artist and the demons with which you have to fight are very hard. And when you no longer have the strength to continue, the songs always stay floating and, like a life preserver, you lean on them and follow them. It’s not about it keeping me at number one on any list, it has helped me stay alive at times.”
6- Habáname (Carlos Varela)
A story of connection, mixed feelings and passion that like trovador Carlos, may have been felt by any of those who walk these streets.
- La Habana sí (Juan Formel and Los Van Van)
This song gives its name to the album that the group presented in 1985. “Havana wants to get going”, says the song that invites the care of the city and as a chronicler of their time, Los Van Van show us the air of renewal and change that characterized the capital at this time.
- Havana (Fito Páez)
“Havana at your feet
I would not know how to love you in any other way
Havana at your feet
Time passes and your memory is not erased (…) “.
This is how this beautiful song by Argentinean singer-songwriter and filmmaker Rodolfo Páez, better known as Fito, begins, and Havana captivated him in such a way that he made a song for him. Once, in a concert at the Karl Marx theatre, the musician commented to the audience: “Here I received a hug of love, which to this day is something that keeps me alive”.
- Havanization (Raúl Paz)
Havanization is an album by the Pinar del Río singer-songwriter Raúl Paz, which contains a song with the same name. In the song, Paz makes clear to the listeners that the city is like your house. On one occasion, referring to the capital he said: “My relationship with Havana has always been meetings. I will never forget the first time I came to Havana. I stayed at the Presidente Hotel with my parents. What impresses me most about Havana is always going back, it’s arriving, entering. I feel that feeling that it is the place where I belong. ”
- Mi Habana (Deja Vu)
The song is from the album ‘Perfect Balance’ of this Cuban group that fuses musical rhythms from around the world. As a homage to traditional music, the song start with a clip of the song Hermosa Habana sung by Los Zafiros and in a moment Yamil, the vocalist, calls it “the city of images”, while he recreates the styles and ways of life of the capital.
Feature image by Claudia Yilén Paz / Cubahora