The second edition of Havana World Music gathered artists from three continents at the Cuban capital city, thus representing an interesting blend of races, colors and sounds, with music as universal language.

During two nights, the stage nestled in Almendares Park received thousands of Cubans, who were eager to listen to sonorous trends different from those that are usually broadcasted by the media.

The list of outstanding Cuban artists included Raul Paz, Tony Avila, Roberto Fonseca, Eme Alfonso, Alain Perez and Isaac Delgado; while French-Moroccan Aziz Sahmaoui, singer and songwriter David Walters, Mexican Institute of Sound, DJ Set Philippe Cohen – former member of Gotan Project – and singers Mélissa Laveaux, from Canada, and Ellen Andrea Wang, from Norway, were very acclaimed and applauded.

One of the most eagerly awaited moments of the Festival was the presentation of project Women of the World (WOW), an initiative aimed at highlighting the value of music created by women from every corner of Earth. The leader of WOW, Eme Alfonso, dedicated the project to Celina Gonzalez, the prestigious Cuban singer-songwriter known as “The Queen of Punto Guajiro”, who passed away short time ago.

Mrs. Alfonso told PanamericanWorld that Women of the World has been “very special. The idea was conceived by Tea Thelmeland, an excellent violinist that attended the Festival last year. We began writing to these women that have developed remarkable careers as soloists and that’s how we met Ellen Andrea Wang, the Norwegian double-bass player, and Mélissa Laveaux, a Canadian songwriter.”

“Coming to Havana to meet each other has been very interesting. We had not been together before and the rehearsals were very enjoyable and nice. We all speak different languages, so we’ve used the language of music to communicate with each other. We’re very different in terms of culture and origins, but we came together because we are women, instrumentalists, songwriters, and I believe that every one of us had her special moment in the concert.”

“The second edition of Havana World Music was a real gas and the artistic quality was excellent. We were joined by more groups than last year. We had 10 groups in 2014, and 14 in this edition. We’re very happy with the result, it was an intense and hard work”, Alfonso said.

One of the most coveted performances during the Festival was Raul Paz’s. “I’m happy because these events are being held in Cuba. I believe that there is great potential here for these meetings. Spaces like this one help us understand the world, open doors and let us get in touch with today’s music. I think that this has been Cuba’s mistake over the past years: we were only making music for ourselves. We can make international music without putting our roots aside. I’m pleased to see this group of people that have come together here to make a different show. I’m open to communicate with the world”, Paz, author of nine albums, explained.

Famous for the ingenuity of his lyrics, Tony Avila has become one of the most sough-after Cuban musicians. He took the invitation to participate in the Havana World Music as an honor. “This is a great idea, as it gathers in Havana talented musicians from around the world. Today, I stood on a stage where Cuba was being shown to the world and we shared the moment with international music. I’m very happy”, he emphasized.

Aziz Sahmaoui is a French-Moroccan musician that merges Maghrebi traditional music with modern sounds from rock or jazz. During the Festival, he shared stage with Harold López-Nussa, Yaroldy Abreu, Rodney Barreto and Roberto Gomez. That experience satisfied him.

“The whole world has listened to and danced with Cuban music. It has plenty of that energy and, along with messages and history, music stands for principles. I’m glad to get in touch with Cuban music and spend some time with my friends here. We take our tradition and culture from North Africa and champion it. It’s very important to share our roots and identity with the rest of the world. This event represents an opportunity to go deep into other sounds and understand, share and exchange cultures by building a bridge to go farther and try out new things. It’s good for our imagination, dreams, to free ourselves and establish a dialogue with this Cuban public that carefully listens to us. The Havana World Music contributes to beautify life: that’s the magic. I want to go into the heart and spirit of the Cuban people by means of music”, Sahmaoui underlined.

What should we expect from the third edition of Havana World Music, in 2016? Cuban bass player Alain Perez, who has performed with Paco de Lucia, Celia Cruz and Isaac Delgado, among many others, sees it clearly: “Cuba is World Music, because it’s all about the merge of races. It was about time to have a project aimed at shedding light on the amount of colors, influences and cultures we presently have on the Island and, at the same time, bringing other artists, other accents to reduce distances. This event needs to move forward and gain momentum.”

With information from L.E. García. PanamericanWorld. La Havana