Celtic Music Fest Returns to Havana

Irina Echarry

Marcel Nazabal in Havana during the first Celtic Music fest in the Cuban capital. Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES, April14 — Can you imagine strolling through green hills of Ireland while walking on cobblestones? Are you familiar with the sound of the bagpipe when it travels down Obispo Street in Old Havana?

Well, this is your chance to experience it at the Second International Festival of Celtic Music and Traditions, which begins April 15 and will run through the 24th.

Interacting with the “Festival of Urban Landscapes: City in Movement,” on Saturday, April 15, at 2:00 in the afternoon, there will be a street band with pipers, stilt walkers and dancers. People are thankful for these performances in which they can parade along with the Eduardo Lorenzo Bagpipe Band or the Asturian Bagpipe Band of Havana.

Among the foreign guests who will come to Old Havana, one will be able to listen to the Galician piper Manuel Ada, Canadian violinist Roy Johnstone and the great Irish bagpiper Gay McKeon. In the Oratory San Felipe Neri, at 7:00 p.m., the opening concert will take place with many surprises for the lovers of this art form.

During the event, workshops will be presented on music, dance and song, and every night there will be concerts and jam sessions.

Representing Cuba, in addition to new Celtic music groups that have emerged and consolidated in Havana, the group Anima Mundi will be presented. For years this ensemble has fused Celtic music with symphonic rock and has a following that keeps up with the band’s excellent work.

The event is sponsored by the Office of the Historian of the City and the Canadian-Cuban Celtic Society, the Irish Culture ministry and the Cuban CelfFest society. The festival was the idea of Cuban bagpiper Marcel Nazabel and Lisa Butchart of Canada. Marcel made contact with his Irish friend Kilian Kennedy, who discovered the Celtic tradition here on the island during a visit in 2008. It had been preserved by descendants of Catalan, Basque, Galician, Scottish and Irish emigrants. Last year was the festival’s first edition, which was well received by Havana residents.

According to Marcel Nazabal, a young bagpiper and one of the organizers of the event, a new aspect of this second edition is that it will travel on to Pinar del Rio Province, where what is expected to be a great concert will be given on Monday night (April 25) at the Milanes Theater.

Maybe next time more provinces will have the luck of hosting and enjoying the festival.

Welcome back bagpipes and tambourines!

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