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2011 CeltFest Cuba Festival, Havana, Cuba

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:20 am    Post subject: 2011 CeltFest Cuba Festival, Havana, Cuba Reply with quote

[Art: Received from Lisa Butchart]

The artist line-up for the 2011 CeltFest Cuba Festival in Havana, Cuba has been announced.

Artists of the Emerald Isle of Ireland are joining their Celtic cousins in the New World for a festival of music and dance, April 15-24 in Havana, Cuba. Canadian artists from Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island are also performing as are gaita (Spanish bagpipe) bands and other musicians and dancers from Cuba making the event an island-to-island celebration of the Celtic diaspora.

Culture Ireland, the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana and the Canadian-Cuban Celtic Society are sponsors of the ten day event. Artists from Ireland who participated in the inaugural festival last year Niamh Ni Charra and Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich are returning, as are Canadian artists Chrissy Crowley and Ward MacDonald. Other Canadian artists are Cynthia MacLeod, Koady Chaisson and Roy Johnstone. Also performing at the festival are Irish artists Gay McKeon and Nuala Kennedy.

The Cuban performers include the musicians and dancers of Pinar Del Rio's Resurrectio, The Pipe Band of Eduardo Lorenzo, The Pipers of Havana, The Band of Monterroso y Antas de Ulla, Aires Gallegos of the Rosalia de Castro Society, Havana's Celtic Folk Group Llar na Braña and the Havana Fiddle Club.

The schedule of events and more information are available on the festival website:

Journalist Bill Henry's slide show of CeltFest Cuba, nominated for a Canadian media award, gives a good sense of last years festival:
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating pictures in The Sun Times slide show, btw. It could illustrate a book on contemporary Cuban culture from an angle that has never been explored...until Celt Fest Cuba came around. Thanks!
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Celtic culture in Cuba

Probably one of the last things you would expect while vacationing in Cuba is to run into a group of Cuban bagpipers playing Celtic music. This is what exactly what happened to Irish piper Cillín Ó Cinneide while on a long vacation in Cuba and could easily happen to you when you happen to be in Havana between April 15th and 25th 2011. During these days the 2nd edition of CeltFest Cuba will take place.

Cillín decided to bring his uilleann pipes with him on vacation since for a “piper” being 5 weeks without practice is a long time. While playing outdoors in one of the wonderful small Havana parks he got a tap on his shoulder from a complete stranger who invited Cillín and his instrument to attend a Cuban piping concert where he discovered “a rich, hidden vein of Celtic music in Cuba.” He met Marcel Nazabal with whom he became friends played music and travelled all over Cuba.

Celtic music arrived to Cuba together with the Spanish immigrants, in particular those who arrived from Galicia and Asturias, the Celtic provinces of northern Spain. After Cuba’s independence from Spain the Galician and Asturian societies played an important role in keeping the Celtic culture alive by organizing Celtic Music workshops.

As Cillín discovered, Cubans, especially those whose ancestors originate from Galicia and Asturias have a great interest in all things Celtic. In 2008, a group of Cuban musicians where invited to the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton, an island in northern Nova Scotia, Canada where they played with the world famous Galician piper Carlos Nuñez.

Not much later a friend of Marcel, Lisa Butchart from Canada, asked Marcel if he and Cillín could help her organize a small Celtic music event that should take place around her birthday in April 2010. This idea quickly evolved into something more ambitious, hence the first Celtfest Cuba, planned to last 3 days. Using their extensive networks in Canada, Cuba and Ireland they managed to secure the support from a group of international musicians and organizations including the “Officina de Historiador de la Habana”, the Spanish Societies of Cuba and Culture Ireland, which played an essential role in supporting the festival, as they funded artists from Ireland to come to Havana to perform. The event was an enormous success. Cillín told me: “ our 3-day event became a 9-day celebration”.

Among the many Cuban bands that perform Celtic influenced music are Banda de Eduardo of the Galician Society, Banda de Gaitas de La Habana from the Asturian society, folk group "Resurrectio" of Pinar Del Rio, the Band and Dancers of Monterroso y Antas de Ulla, the group Aires Galegos De La Habana, the Havana Fiddle Club and Grupo de baile de la Sociedad Agrupación Artística Gallega.

Some of the artist that came to Cuba to participate in the first edition of Celtfest Cuba will be back this year along with many new faces. Traditional Irish dancing workshops play an important role in this year’s festival, as well as a full program of concerts and music sessions in famous locations around Old Havana.

Celtfest Cuba 2011 is billed as “a Caribbean celebration of music and dance, originally from the Celtic Nations of Europe, which has migrated to the New World”. For a full list of artists and a detailed event schedule please visit the official website of the event: http://www.celtfestcuba.org.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cuba dances to a Celtic beat
Meeting of music: revellers at CeltFest Cuba MAGAN'S WORLD: MANCHÁN MAGAN’S tales of a travel addict

THE LATEST Fáilte Ireland video presents Ireland exactly as you’d hope it would be to the world – as a potent, self-confident place brimming with beauty and joie de vie. It’s revelatory, and ought to be forwarded to everyone you know abroad – make promoting Irish tourism a viral campaign (check it out on YouTube).

Tough times may have sparked our government agencies to up their ante. Cultural Ireland, a tiny seven-person organisation, has captured America with its Imagine Ireland programme of 400 events, plays, readings and concerts throughout the US. It is also presenting Irish culture to China, Australia and Russia, but most interesting of all is Cuba’s CeltFest which it helped establish last year, and which is about to have its second airing.

It never dawned on me that Cuba might be part-Celtic, that the colonial settlers would have come from poor areas of Spain such as Galicia and Asturias on the Celtic northern fringe. They brought with them their bagpipes and fiddles and over the centuries blended their tunes with the African, Latino and Caribbean sounds that flow like a river through Cuba.

Music coalesced in Cuba like nowhere else, and yet a pure Celtic strain remained. It was this that the Westmeath piper, Kilian Kennedy, stumbled accidentally upon during a holiday in Havana. He was practising his uilleann pipes in the park one day, when a local piper turned up and introduced him to “a rich, hidden vein of Celtic music” on the island.

Two years later, they established CeltFest Cuba, bringing Liam Ó Maonlaí, Niamh Ní Charra, Brendan Begley and his sons together with Cuban, Scottish and Cape Breton musicians and dancers to play in a range of back street cafes and crumbling colonial buildings in Havana. It was a wild success; the locals immediately catching on to the magical swirling airs of Begley and Ó Maonlaí and joining in to create a Cuban/Celtic mezclado of pulsating, rhythmic sound.

Each side were like spark and kindling to each other and wherever they gathered, whether in old Hemingway bars or on street corners, the music would re-ignite: Irish fiddles and accordion, Spanish gaitas (bagpipes) with Afro-Caribbean percussion creating irresistible rhythms that set everyone moving – feet stepping with Cape Breton precision and waists shimmying with Latino abandon.

The video snippets on celtfestcuba.org capture the atmosphere: the bold Begley boys coaxing Ó Maonlaí into dancing a jig straight through a midnight salsa video being shot on a Havana street, or Brendan Begley singing Slán Le Maigh as a farewell to staff in a bar, hand-in-hand with his two sons, Bréanainn and Cormac, channelling the millennia-old dúchas of the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht, with Ó Maonlaí and a group of locals joining in, much to the bemusement of the bar’s locals – it’s a tingling cross-cultural moment.

“I think the big thing is that people were getting lost in the trance of the Irish music,” says Ó Maonlaí. “We were bringing some of that cloud of our dream time here and, in turn, were getting lost in some of the music that was here. I was allowed to exercise certain musical muscles in myself. It was fertile ground.”

How, you might ask, does any of this help Irish tourism? Most Cubans are hardly likely to be able to afford a holiday in Ireland, but the 1.7 million Cuban-Americans could easily, and reminding them that we are all Celtic brothers is a worthy undertaking which could reap rich cultural and economic rewards.

After all, Los Cubanos have always been known as the Irish of the Americas – a gracious, generous, tactile, dance and music-obsessed people – and their Rip Van Winkle island may have something to teach us about bucking modern social and political realities, and offering an alternate vision, one in which arts are a central tenet of society.

CeltFest Cuba, April 15th-25th, celtfestcuba.org

larger image link: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/images/2011/0402/1224293595731_1.jpg?ts=1301747079
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:19 am    Post subject: From the Irish Central website Reply with quote


Obama slaps ban on Irish musicians travelling to Cuba
Administration refuses visas for traditional Irish artists
By NIALL O'DOWD, IrishCentral.com Founder

Published Sunday, April 10, 2011, 7:48 AMUpdated Sunday, April 10, 2011, 7:53 AM

The Obama Administration has refused to allow Irish American traditional musicians (and Irish musicians resident in the US) to participate in the Second Annual Celtic Festival in Cuba, April 15-26.

The festival is being organized by Kilian Kennedy of Ireland who discovered during a vacation in Cuba a lively Celtic tradition sustained by immigrants and descendants from Gaelic provinces of northern Spain. Last year, he arranged for musicians from Ireland and Canada to come to Cuba for a week of performances, workshops and seisiuns based in the lovingly restored Old Havana. This year's festival is receiving support from Culture Ireland as well as Havana's Office of the Historian, Dr. Eusebeo Leal.

John McAuliff, who served in the 1980s as president of the Philadelphia Ceili Group and assistant editor of that city's monthly Irish Edition, applied for a license for traditional musicians from the US under the auspices of his 25 year old not-for-profit organization, the Fund for Reconciliation and Development of Dobbs Ferry, NY. Initially the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department turned him down on the grounds he did not provide sufficient detail as required by 2004 guidelines.

McAuliff provide the requested information, only to be informed on Thursday, barely a week before the Festival begins, that his application was "beyond the scope of what was authorized," citing again the 2004 guidelines.

Although President Obama in principle opened the door to "purposeful travel" on January 14th, and new regulations were published in only two weeks, three months later OFAC has still not issued guidelines to implement them or issued any new licenses. Programs for undergraduate and graduate students and religious organizations do not require a specific license, but artists, performers and people-to-people exchanges must still jump through OFAC hoops.

McAulif has written to Adam Szubin, the director of OFAC challenging the use of guidelines, "issued at the direction of President Bush in 2004 that were intended to destroy purposeful travel as a concession to his political supporters in Florida " He asked, "How can Bush Administration criteria be relevant to implementation of the policy of President Obama who wants to do just the opposite, foster purposeful travel?"

McAuliff suspects that OFAC has its own bureaucratic agenda and has been under pressure from hard line Cuban Americans like New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez who oppose even Obama's authorization in 2009 of unlimited family travel by Cuban Americans.

Should OFAC reconsider at the last minute, McAuliff is not sure how many American musicians will still be able to arrange their schedules or raise the money to go.

Festival organizer Kilian Kennedy reports that, "The main societies with Celtic music are from Galicia and Asturias in Northern Spain. In Havana, the two largest societies are the Agrupación Artística Gallega de La Habana and the Centro Asturiano de La Habana. Both of these societies have bands that play gaitas (bagpipes), drums, flutes and other Celtic instruments. They also have groups of dancers who wear traditional outfits when celebrating the music and dances of their ancestral Celtic homelands in Spain. These are not the only societies in Havana with Celtic origins - there are also the Monterroso y Antas de Ulla and the Rosalia de Castro Galician societies, all of whom performed at CeltFest Cuba 2010."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Irish-Americans are applying travel permission for the 2012 festival in Cuba; They are a determined group, I'm optimistic for their success so that next year they can join the Cuban artists, the Irish artists from Europe and all the other musicians from the celtic disaposa worldwide.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Bajará a La Habana dios celta de las artes

Por Isachi Fernández

Prestigiosos artistas irlandeses, canadienses, gallegos, asturianos y cubanos se reunirán en La Habana del 15 al 24 de abril venidero, durante el II Festival Internacional de Música y Tradiciones Celtas, que se celebrará en plazas, centros culturales y establecimientos comerciales del Centro Histórico de esta capital.

Los gaiteros Gay McKeon y Manuel Ada, de Irlanda y Galicia respectivamente, el violinista canadiense Roy Jonhstone, la Banda de Gaitas Eduardo Lorenzo y la Banda de Gaitas Asturianas de La Habana, ambas de la Federación de Asociaciones Españolas de Cuba, confirmaron su participación en la cita, que en sus primeros días se fusionará con el Festival Internacional de Danza en Paisajes Urbanos Habana Vieja Ciudad en Movimiento.

Organizado por la Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad y por la sociedad canadiense irlandesa Celfest Cuba, el Festival de Música y Tradiciones Celtas contemplará talleres y presentaciones danzarías, conciertos, pasacalles y desfiles de gaiteros.

Precisamente, con un recorrido de gaiteros por la populosa calle Obispo comenzará el encuentro que abrirá sus puertas en abril, coincidiendo con la entrada de los vientos primaverales. La cita, según sus organizadores, promete ser un canto a la variedad de culturas que conforman la nacionalidad cubana.

Publicada: 12/04/2011
Dirección de Patrimonio Cultural
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