The Bay Area has been a hotbed for Cuban music for more than half a century, and despite the persistent cold war freeze on relations with the communist-ruled nation, the temperature here keeps rising.
The annual CubaCaribe Festival, now in its 15th year, has long served as an essential showcase for Cuban culture, advancing the always cogent argument that music and dance are often inextricably linked. Rather than seeing Cuba in isolation, the festival takes a wide-angle view, presenting the nation as the linchpin of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora via presentations exploring religion, history, politics and cultural expression.
“It’s remarkable how that small country, that small island, has such a wide influence in the world,” says CubaCaribe co-founder Ramón Ramos Alayo, the Cuban-born dancer, teacher, choreographer and the founder and artistic director of Bay Area-based Alayo Dance Company.
The festival opens April 10 at the Museum of the African Diaspora with a reception and talk by visual artist Pablo Soto Campoamor and writer Jesus Sierra. The action moves to Brava Theater on April 13-14 with packed programs focusing on Cuban social dances such as danzón, mambo, chachachá, rumba and conga.
Featuring some of the region’s finest musicians, including violinist Tregar Otton and percussionist Michael Spiro’s Orquesta la Moderna Tradición, the festival also highlights the Cuban influence on flamenco with a performance by acclaimed dancer/choreographer Carola Zertuche.
Details: 6 p.m. April 10 at Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco; $15-$18; 8 p.m. April 13 and 3 p.m. April 14 at Brava Theater, San Francisco, $25-$30; cubacaribe.org.