As with just about every place on Earth, COVID has forced Cuban musicians to stay home – without playing in front of a live audience – for several months. Finally, after months of confinement, live music is beginning to return to the nights of Havana!
If you are planning to go to Havana, or if you just want to stay on top of the latest acts in the city, please check out the newly reopened places with the best musical offers in the city. From rock to timba, jazz to trova, bolero to son, we have chosen 9 places for you to enjoy live music in La Habana.
1. El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine)
Address: 17 between 4 and 6 (Vedado).
Since its opening in 2011, this place has been dedicated to honoring The Beatles as a musical phenomenon. It is also located next to the park where the statue of John Lennon is located. It is one of the favorite meeting places for national and international pop music lovers.
On its small and intimate stage, artists who want to pay tribute to the four from Liverpool parade, taking advantage of all the qualities that Cuban musicians possess.
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Since last December 4, and after extensive maintenance work during the pandemic, it is now open to the public who loves live music. Open Sundays from 2pm to 10pm. The matinee space is still reserved for the emblematic band Gens.
2. Casa de la Música de Miramar
Address: Avenida 35 and 20 (Miramar, Playa).
Palace of timba and salsa in Havana, located in an old mansion, Casa de la Música de Miramar is one of the reference sites for dance music in the Cuban capital. Since its opening in the 90s, all the bands that have later triumphed on the international scene have paraded on the stages of this concert hall. It’s probably one of the best places to go dancing.
But the fun never ends at the Casa de la Música de Miramar: that’s what El Diablo Tun Tun takes care of. This piano-bar is on the top floor of the building and there you will find more music styles, such as trova (songwriter) or live soloists. Every day there are two sets; the matinee in the afternoon from 5pm to 9pm, and another evening performance until 3am with first-rate music bands.
3. Café Teatro Bertolt Brecht
Address: Linea and I (Vedado).
After being reopened in 2008, this place has become the new nightlife venue for contemporary Cuban music. Right in the heart of the Vedado neighborhood, Café Teatro Bertolt Brecht presents Roberto Carcassés & Interactivo every Saturday night from 11pm to 2am.
And it turns out that Roberto is the best host for other groups such as Toques del Río (funk band from Pinar del Río), and everything that sounds like a mix between trova, pop fusion, jazz and electronic music. Son of the great showman Roberto Carcassés, Robertico has attracted a group of musicians who, without a fixed presence, experiment and express themselves at all levels of contemporary music – without forgetting its deep roots in Cuban music.
4. Infanta 1057
Address: Infanta #1057, between Desagüe and Benjumeda (Centro Habana).
Remember those new places we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Well, this is precisely one of them, where many surprises await audiences.
Since December, it has featured a peña (gig) by troubadour Sadiel Madrazo every Saturday at 6pm, an ideal space to start a Saturday night out in Havana.
But the newest thing about the place will be its Jam Sessions, scheduled for every Thursday afternoon. Any fan of Cuban music will be invited to be part of the stage and share good moments of Cuban music together with other musicians, consecrated or not. Undoubtedly this will be a space for music students or simple music lovers to share their talent with all attendees.
5. Café Cantante Mi Havana
Address: Paseo and 39 (Vedado).
On the ground floor of the National Theater, through its side entrance, is one of the most popular concert halls for live salsa and dance. Open from 4pm to 7pm as an informal dance hall, at night it becomes a perfect place to enjoy real Cuban live music.
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Who would expect this place in a low-ceiling basement? It is here that musicians and dancers, who collaborate and dance in this place, enjoy the best of Cuban music.
6. Salón Rosado de la Tropical (Benny Moré)
Address: Avenida 41 between 44 and 46 (Playa).
Quieres bailar? Pues dale pa’la Tropical. (“You want to dance? Well, go ahead to Tropical!”)
Historically El Salón Rosado Benny Moré de la Tropical is the top spot for popular dance culture in Cuba. All the greats of Cuban music have performed here to delight dancers, from Arsenio Rodríguez to Van-Van.
Of course, others like Carlos Varela to Kelvin Ochoa, and international bands Oasis to The Dead Daisys have also performed in this open-air venue, which is deeply rooted in the history of the nation’s culture.
Stop by Friday and Saturday from 8pm to 2am and Sundays from 4pm to 9pm, you will not regret it.
7. Dos Gardenias
Address: Ave. 7ma. and 26 (Miramar, Playa).
If you likes bolero and romantic music in an intimate environment full of special magic, without any doubt, you have to visit this privileged place any night. In a family atmosphere and with a personalized service, Dos Gardenias not only prides itself on its gastronomy, it is also the meeting place for famous performers of romantic music, the recognized and beloved musical tradition.
The Bolero Hall and the entire installation is dedicated to this music genre and to Isolina Carrillo, as it bears the name of that internationally recognized piece with the title of Dos Gardenias.
8. El Sauce
Address: 9na between 120 and 130 (Playa).
In this venue, all generations come together Tuesday to Saturday, starting at 9pm. Artists like Buena Fé, David Torrens, Aláin Pérez, Diana Fuentes, Kelvis Ochoa, Polito Ibáñez, Raúl Torres and many more will be found here and you will be able to enjoy their music live.
Sunday afternoons starting at 5pm, it is the space of Frank Delgado and the Cuban actor Luís Alberto García, who will not only make you dance and laugh, but also will recall the Discotemba “La Máquina de la Melancolía”.
9. Casa de la Música de Galiano
Address: Galiano between Concordia and Neptuno (Centro Habana).
For a long time, dancers have been waiting for a live music venue in Centro Habana to enjoy without having to travel to the Playa or Vedado neighborhoods. The wait was over with the establishment of Casa de la Música de Galiano in 2002, who until the beginning of the pandemic, had worked tirelessly to welcome the best of popular dance music. Now they return with new spirit and better finery. In this spectacular hall with three bars on the ground floor, large groups perform to the delight of dancers, while in the first floor room they welcome artists who bring a more intimate experience.
If you are based near the Galiano Boulevard and you feel like dancing, don’t hesitate to visit this place to echar tu pasito (dance). Performances are at 5pm and 10pm.
Do you think these offers are enough and varied to fill your nights in Havana with live music? Believe me, I have selected only the best from dozens of options, which appear after the lethargy of the pandemic. And it is the Cuban musician, used to feeling the pulse of his music in front of the public, who is the happiest and most eager to go on stage and show what they have created in these times of pause.
Havana is happy and wants to party, and this will never be possible in Cuba without live music everywhere. If you are visiting Havana during the following weeks, you will see it for yourself.