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After a Historic Year For Their Music Scene, Electronic Music In Cuba Is Here to Stay

In the the third installment of the series, we head to Santiago de Cuba, to see how dance music’s path through the decades has resulted in the scene’s most vibrant moment.

In the first two episodes of Sub.Culture:Cuba, our three-part look into the development of dance music on the island, we learned how early electroacoustic music built a bridge for Cuba's first wave of DJs to cross into a new era of machine-led sound, followed by a dive into how those first selectors channeled the socialist country's economic turbulence to develop a nightlife scene. Now, in the the third and final installment of the series, we head to present-day Santiago de Cuba, where MANANA festival took place in May of this year, to see how dance music's journey through the decades has paved the way for the scene's most vibrant moment.


In the episode, two of MANANA's founders, local MC Alain Garcia Artola, and British nightlife organizer, Harry Follet, discuss how collaboration is at the core of the festival's ethos. They explain the event's initial vision, which is to explore and present on stage, the space where Afro-Cuban music (a style native to Santiago de Cuba) and contemporary electronic music intersect—filling their bill with the likes of international talents like Quantic, Nicolas Jaar, and A Guy Called Gerald, as well Cuban acts like Wichy De Vedado and rumba band Okkubuté. Working with talents both international and local, the event connected the music of Santiago de Cuba with dance music in a broader context—and it worked.

We later catch up with Alain, a heron on the local music scene, who invites us to sit on the roof of the house he grew up in and tells us he got involved with the festival. Harry, who met Alain when he first traveled to Cuba to help build a collaborative music studio, helps trace the festival's long journey toward success. In closing, we hear once again from local Cuban DJs like Djoy de Cuba, who expresses the importance of an event like MANANA to his career and life's journey. He also explains how Major Lazer's recent blowout street performance in Havana, a spectacle that took place shortly before MANANA, further cements the fact that dance music is here to stay on the island.

Photos by Michael James Murray