Havana Cultura – the new Buena Vista Social Club?

Imagine heading to Havana for a percussion course, befriending a musician, and going on to lead a world-famous music project together. Does it not sound like some far-fetched urban myth?Havana Cultura co-producer Vince Vella was doing just that when he first met the acclaimed Cuban pianist, Roberto Fonseca, 6 years ago. Since then they’ve developed not just a strong friendship, but an inspired musical partnership, too. Without a doubt their most successful feate was gathering an incredible group of musicians and producing a double album. “It was back in February 2009,” recalls Vince,“it was a dream to be there with all those great musicians.”

At the same time, Gilles Peterson had been involved in a Cuban compilation project with Havana Club rum. The two projects couldn’t help but converge, resulting in a 5-day recording session at the legendary Egrem Studios in Havana, where, Buena Vista Social Club recorded their seminal album with Ry Cooder.

The notable difference between the two, though, is how contemporary and fresh Havana Cultura’s music sounds. In Vince’s words, “music is like history: you need to create something new, with big respect for the past”. In doing so they fused a range of styles into the album, from Cuban jazz to reggaeton and hip hop. The secret to the mix? “We trusted each other musically”, says Vince.

The remarkable album can only be attributed to the virtuous nature of the musicians Roberto Fonseca, Irakere’s Javier Zalba, Mayra Valdés (Chucho Valdés’ sister), and their precious newcomer talent Danay. And less than a year after their first album, they already have a new, remixed version, produced and sampled by well known names, such as Louie Vega, 4Hero and MJ Cole. And in July fans in the UK will get the chance to catch the band live at the Barbican, and up north at the festival VAMOS!

3 key figures of the project

Roberto Fonseca
It was on Ibrahim Ferrer’s tour that he came into the spotlight. Ten years on, he’s performed solo in the UK several times, including at the most prestigious jazz festivals of Cheltenham and London.

Vince Vella
Co-producer with Gilles Peterson of Havana Cultura, Vince is a DJ and accomplished percussionist looking for the beats behind jazz, house, hip hop and world music.

Gilles Peterson refers to her as Cuba’s Jill Scott. Her new solo album recently recorded, with her rhythm, trained voice and presence, she looks set to become a star.

By Erika Tambke


Havana cultura @ The Barbican
July 6th, 7.30pm, £10-£20
020 7638 8891

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