The Harvard Jazz Band Visits Cuba

Written by Sophia Bass

In late August, the Harvard Jazz Band traveled through Cuba, as part of a musical tour of the island. Under the guidance of Director Yosvany Terry, a native Cuban, they toured the historic museum and home of Tata Güines, one of Cuba's top percussionists, and viewed the National Folkloric Company of Cuba perform Afro-Cuban dance, percussion, and chanting.

The purpose of the trip was to appreciate the diverse fabric of Cuban music, while also examining it's social and political importance. Marking the Harvard Band's first tour in 25 years, the trip highlighted the vibrancy of Cuba's complex music and rich history of preserving old traditions.

"How they learn to internationalize rhythm is just fundamentally different than in the United States," said Ethan Kripke, a sophomore who plays drums. He expressed that the clave is fundamental to Cuban music, aiding percussion, singing, and dancing in Cuba.

Students explored the streets of Havana, where they heard performances of well known Cuban musicians, and saw the birthplaces of music and dance traditions of rumba in Matanzas.

"It was cool to be so welcomed and to just feel deeply entrenched in this Cuban tradition of danzon. Music is such a universal language, both in terms of the notion and the feelings you get from it, and in the camaraderie it creates among people of diverse cultures," said the 21 year old student. Harvard Band members were impressed that the Cubans have internalized rhythms of Afro-Cuban Jazz that don't come as easily to Americans.

Visiting the home of Tata Güines was the highlight for the Harvard Jazz Band. Inspired by the village and community that Güines grew up in, students were humbled by watching local drummers play in the courtyard of the village. Students felt a sense of inspiration when they learned that Güines found a way out of poverty by becoming a successful percussionist.

If you want to learn more about the Harvard Jazz Band's experience in Cuba, check out Harvard Jazz Band Visits Cuba


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