EDM Lands in Cuba as Major Lazer Announces Havana Concert

Major Lazer is coming to Cuba.
Major Lazer is coming to Cuba.
Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Since the United States began its diplomatic thaw with Cuba in December 2014, we've seen a gradual exchange of culture between the two countries. Some developments were small, like when Netflix became available in Cuba. Or when the famous Havana cabaret, El Tropicana de Cuba, performed its first stateside show in Miami, on New Year's Eve.

Other developments are sure to bring larger change, like Carnival's plan to offer cruises to the island.

Yesterday, a new milestone was announced. Live EDM – big, loud, and American – will make its debut in Cuba. Major Lazer, the DJ trio consisting of South Florida natives Diplo and Walshy Fire and Trinidad and Tobago's Jillionaire, will play a free concert at Havana's La Tribuna José Martí.

The concert, which will take place Sunday, March 6, will serve as a warm-up of sorts for Musicabana, an international festival coming to Cuba May 5 to 8, featuring artists like Sean Paul, Carlinhos Brown, Pablo Milanés, Carlos Varela, and Los Van Van.

Major Lazer won't be the first American act to hit the island. Audioslave played a concert in Cuba before, and Beyoncé, Jay Z, Rihanna, and Katy Perry have all visited the island recently. But Major Lazer's set will mark the first mainstream American dance-music act to hit Cuba. In November, Miami native DJ Oscar G visited Cuba to play a set at Havana's Fábrica de Arte Cubano. "The crowd there, they're up on electronic music in general," he told us. "From what I understand, [electronic music] has been popular for quite some time." 

Many have spoken out against America's new diplomatic relationship with Cuba, though. Willy Chirino, who fled to Miami from Cuba in 1960, penned a critical op-ed for Billboard after the announcement. He says of the Cuban-American cultural exchange: 

The infamous cultural exchange continues. It allows countless artists who reside in Cuba to get visas that allow them to work in the U.S. without restrictions. In exchange, only those artists who promise to not touch upon social and political issues in their songs and who live outside Cuba – those who pretend to swim in two waters – are allowed to perform on the island. If this is the precedent of the conversations between the Castro regime and Obama, what can you expect from these encounters that doesn't empower these scoundrels in Cuba?

Diplo, who has visited the island before, is excited to return. "For as long as I can remember, Cuba has played an influential role in my love of music – Cuba has such a powerful cultural impact all over the world, and for me, especially growing up in Florida, it became one of the biggest cultural centers for music to evolve from," Diplo said via news release. "I was lucky enough to visit Cuba a few years back with my friends Calle 13, and during my four days there, my mind was blown by the people, depth of culture, and their way of life. Going back to perform in 2016 and to be a part of the culture once again is a huge blessing, and I couldn't be more honored to bring the Major Lazer project there."

It may only be a matter of time until you're buying tickets to Ultra Havana.


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