This past weekend will mark another notch on the string of events contributing to the freedom ( at least culturally) of the island nation of Cuba. No longer restricted to celebrities and politicians, Cuba is becoming a marquee destination for world travelers and culture seekers. Musicabana, a high powered, city-wide musical event took place in Cuba's festive epicenter, Havana, from May 5-8th.
The all-Cuban lineup featured starters such as Ibeyi, Adonis and Osain del Montewith, with a surprise appearance from US artist Diplo.
Fabien Pisani, festival director and creator of Musicabana, states that “Cuba’s music scene is bursting with the same raw talent and energy of decades past.” Partnering with electronic power house Major Lazer (Diplo), Pisani is making a push to open the musical flood gates between Cuba and the rest of the world. Understanding the importance of putting Cuba’s unique sound on the map, Pisani and his NYC co-producer David Kichner sifted through endless legal issues for two years to make sure the event went off without a hitch. Aside from a near bureaucratic nightmare that threatened the event a week prior, Musicabana prevailed in natural Cubano fashion. Natives and tourists alike kept Havana buzzing for three days straight as the venues of Musicabana united in rhythm.
However, the significance of Musicabana lies beyond the simple construct of a music festival. It capped off a week that heralded a unique fashion show by world-renowned French fashion house, Chanel. Creative Director, Karl Lagerfield realized his initial "joke” of a dream by presenting his Cuban influenced line at the heart of its inspiration, Havana. Although the event seemed to glorify excess and exploit the under developed country, it undoubtedly brought eyes to a culture that has been sheltered by communism for decades.
Just like other aspects of culture, wine has not been immune to the sudden exploration of Cubano society. Prior to Chanel and Musicabana, the first ever California Wine Symposium took place in the capital city on February 2, 2016. It drew herds of cautious rum enthusiasts and introduced them to the gold mine of California reds, whites, and rosés from Napa Valley. Only aware of a small sample size of Spanish and Argentinian wines, Cubanos were exposed to the wares of a 100 vintners and their all-you-can-drink buffet which spanned two days.
In order to grow the wine culture in Cuba, we must continue to loosen the grip of Fidel Castro’s iron fist on his country. Whether it’s supporting your local Cuban sandwich joint or showing appreciation for heritage events, we must be vigorous in our approach in freeing Cuba from the shackles of an antiquated diplomatic system. With continued progress, we hope the near future will allow anyone the opportunity to sit back in Old Town Havana with a freshly lit cigar in one hand and a glass of California Cabernet in the other.