Manana Festival Fuses Afro-Cuban and Electronic Music

The restoration of political relations between America and Cuba in 2015 has already allowed for cultural exchange. Last weekend Diplo and Major Lazer performed for free at the newly-reopened American embassy in Havana, and this spring Santiago de Cuba will host the electronic and Afro-Cuban fusion festival Manana. The initiative encourages creative fusion between Cuban and international artists by pairing musicians from Santiago and the surrounding provinces with foreign guests to collaborate on original performances that premiere at its events from May 4-6, some of which you can read about in the guide below. In addition to music, Manana will host lectures and workshops in conjunction with Ableton and the NYU Music + Social Change Lab. “For us,” founder Harry Follett told us, “Manana is as much about creating an ongoing musical legacy as it is about the party.”

Wednesday, May 4th @ Heredia Outdoor Stage: Quantic

“We’ve done our best to ensure that Manana presents the unknown, unrecorded Cuban music, which lives deep in the barrios of Santiago, high up in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and in the vibrant communities of Matanzas, Camagüey and Guantanamo. It’s been great to feed off Quantic’s enthusiasm for the project. Like Ed & Andy from Plaid, Quantic was one of the first to sign up to collaborate with local musicians. They’ll all be coming out roughly 10 days before and we’ll premiere their work at the festival.”

Wednesday, May 4th @ Heredia Outdoor Stage: Obbatuké

“Obbatuké are one of the most important rumba groups in Santiago. They’re committed to the preservation of the genre and to pushing its boundaries in order to infuse it with new, modern influences. We were lucky enough to record them earlier this year with Guy Morley (who’s currently working on Grace Jones’ new album) on production duties. The whole recording was done in one session, which blew us away. You can check it out above; the vinyl will be out in a few months via Lobster Theremin.”

Thursday, May 5th @ Heredia Outdoor Stage: A Guy Called Gerald

“When we began this project in our temporary studio out in Santiago, the idea of having someone as iconic as A Guy Called Gerald on board seemed ridiculous. We’re talking about a guy who pioneered genres like acid house, jungle and drum ‘n’ bass and spread Chicago house and Detroit techno across the UK. Playing at Manana will be like turning back time for him, as he’ll be playing to a crowd of people who are experiencing his music for the first time.”

Friday, 6th @ Indoor Club Room: Gifted & Blessed

“Gifted & Blessed (aka The Abstract Eye, The Reflektor, Julian Abelar or Frankie Reyes) is another act who will head out early to take part in some collaborations. It’s been great getting to know Gabriel in the last few months, as he’s been super supportive of the project and his Puerto Rican roots mean that he has good grasp of Cuba’s musical output. ‘I look forward to this musical conversation between not-so-distant relatives,’ he told us. ‘The ancient rhythmic technologies of the drum and the modern mode of expression through electronic instrumentation…ancestors inside electronics.'”

Friday, May 6th @ Heredia Outdoor Stage: Adrian Sherwood & Skip McDonald

“There’s a strong Jamaican influence in Santiago, so there’s no one better than On-U Sound label boss Adrain Sherwood to bring a solid mix of dub, reggae, blues, electronica, funk and soul to the city. He’s going to be flying out with longtime collaborator, travelling bluesman and former Sugar Hill Gang member Skip McDonald.”

Friday, May 6th @ Indoor Club Room: Soul Of Hex

“We’re committed to showcasing a wide range of electronic music from around the world to the Cuban audience, so it’s been great to team up with Juan del Valle’s Cobra Voyage label out in Mexico. He just finished the hugely successful Comunite festival in Tulum and will bring along Century and Soul of Hex, two of the rising stars in Mexico’s club scene. You can check out both artists on our weekly podcast series, which also includes mixes from underground UK duo Phrased and Puerto Rican breakthrough act Grupo ÌFÉ.”

Friday, May 6th @ Heredia Outdoor Stage: Ariwo

“Ariwo is a perfect representation of what we’re trying to achieve at Manana. Their name means ‘noise’ in Yoruba, a language brought to Cuba by West African slaves, and the band’s sound brings together the dark, melancholic drones of Iranian electronic composer Pouya Ehsaei with three of the best Cuban musicians currently living in London: trumpeter Yelfris Valdes and percussionists Oreste Noda and Hammadi Valdes. Rather than reduce the Cuban musicians to a supporting role, Pouya’s live electronic processing elevates their rhythms and melodies and creates a hybrid sound that’s completely unique in contemporary electronic music.”