Singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, with other renowned artists during the Cubadisco 2017 inaugural gala in Cuba’s National Theater. Photo: Jose M. Correa

This year the Cuban Music Institute dedicated the 21st edition of the Cubadisco 2017 International Festival, which took place in Havana from May 13-20, to Cuban trova and Sindo Garay (Santiago de Cuba, April 12, 1867-La Habana, July 17, 1968), on the 150th anniversary of his birth, and 45 years since the creation of Cuba’s New Trova Movement.

Celebrations began long before, with activities taking place in all of the country’s provinces April 15-30, also dedicated to Sindo and the New Trova Movement, as part of the national Gran Trovada project, this year entitled “Te doy una canción” after the emblematic track by singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez - founder, along with Pablo Milanés, Noel Nicola and others, of Cuba’s New Trova Movement.

In the capital, Sindo Garay was honored during both the festival’s International Symposium held in the Center for the Research and Development of Cuban Music (CIDMUC), and Pabellón Cuba, which hosted the associated Trade Fair featuring the exposition Sindo Garay y la trova cubana, curated by the National Museum of Music.

The Pabellón Cuba was also the site of performances by Cuban trovadores, musicians and international artists invited to what has been the island’s main music event since 1997; as well as the presentation and sale of albums by Cubadisco winners and nominees from national record labels such as EGREM, Bis Music and Colibrí, among others. Also available were cultural products, including those produced at the Fernando Ortíz Musical Instrument Factory.

Tributes to the New Trova Movement (born in 1972) and its founders were undertaken by The Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). Both the organization’s headquarters on 17 and H streets, in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, and the National Fine Arts Museum served as sites to recognize the work of bands such as Manguaré, and honor a prestigious group of trova musicians who, from the outset, established the New Trova Movement as a purely authentic expression of Cuban music.

Meanwhile, the Mella Theater played host to the Canto de Todos concert program, directed by one of the New Trova Movement’s founders, Vicente Feliú, and featuring renowned Cuban musicians.

The highlight of Cubadisco 2017 however, was the award ceremony – one of the main motives behind the Festival – which saw over 100 different productions by both national and independent labels nominated across various categories, as well as the awarding of its International Prizes.

The award ceremony took place at the Astral Cinema and featured performances by various Cuban groups, concluding with a presentation by Venezuelan band Dimensión Latina, accompanied on piano by maestro Manolito Simonet.

The Cubadisco 2017 Grand Prize went to Sobreviviente, by Cuban duo Buena Fe, EGREM records. Winners of the Special Awards went to Children’s Theater Company La Colmenita, for Feliz Cumpleaños Fidel and Pedro y el lobo, Abdala records; Son… de Cuba y Puerto Rico, by Pancho Amat, Tony Mapeyé and Chistian Nieves, with Festival Musical Latinoamericano; Presto mi voz, byVicente Feliú, Colibrí; and the DVD Soy la leyenda. 60 Aniversario Gran Premio Cubadisco 2016, by Elito Revé y su Charangón, Bis Music.

Other Extraordinary Awards went to Discografía 50 títulos, by Pablo Milanés, Bis Music; and Frank Fernández’s Alma con Alma, Colibrí. Meanwhile, Escuela de Soneros, by Septeto Habanero, Colibrí, won in the category of Musical and Country Roots; Mujeres en la Rumba, by Team Cuba de la Rumba, EGREM, took the prize in the Afro-Cuban selection; Así de Sampling, by Vocal Sampling, Colibrí, for Vocal and Choir Music; Blues con montuno, by Bobby Carcases, Bis Music, in the Jazz Soloist category; and Mis duetos, by Beatriz Márquez, Abdala, for Boleros and Ballads.

Other prizes went to Jan Cruz’s Aviones de papel, Bis Music, in the Pop category: Como si fueran mías, by Eduardo Sosa, Colibrí, for Trova;Liuba canta a María Elena Wals, by Liuba María Hevia, Abdala, for Children’s Music; Rock duro mami, by Qva Libre, EGREM, in the Urban Music category; Última noticia, by Yissy y Bandancha, EGREM, in the Debut Feature division; and Música cubana. Llegó el Expreso, by Aisar y el Expreso de Cuba, Bis Music, in the category of Danceable Music (novices); as well as Mis 21 años, by Giraldo Piloto and Klimax, EGREM, in the Danceable Music (Maestros) category.

Seven Cubadisco International Awards were presented on the night, going to Spanish productions El viaje, by Santiago Auserón “Juan Perrro”, La Huella Sonora; Son Boleros, by Los Sabandeños, Estudios Multitrack; Las canciones de Serrat sin Serrat, by Richard Miralles and Josep Mas (Kitflus), on Catalan record label Picap; as well as Rusia ante la Rítmica cubana, by Alexandre Moutouzkine, La Ceiba–Colibrí; Imaginary Word, by Sammy Figueroa, SAVAT Record (Puerto Rico-USA); Intillimani Histórico, by Intillimani, Plaza Independencia Musical; and Manuel Medrano, by Manuel Medrano, Warner Music.

Given that Cubadisco 2017 was dedicated to the New Trova Movement the event organizing committee presented the Prize of Honor to trovadores Lázaro García, Augusto Blanca and Silvio Rodríguez’s Tour of the Neighborhoods.

Another, and possibly the most important motivation behind Cubadisco is the broad cultural program it offers national and international participants, with a program featuring important galas such as the Festival inauguration and closing ceremonies.

The former, held in the National Theater’s Avellaneda Hall on Sunday, May 14, featured an outstanding concert entitled Silvio Sinfónico, with the participation of the National Symphony Orchestra directed by maestro Enrique Pérez Mesa and special guests trova musicians Vicente Feliú, Lázaro García, Augusto Blanca and Amaury Pérez, among other renowned artists.

The latter, also held in Cuba’s National Theater and led by the National Symphony Orchestra and maestro Pérez Mesa, dedicated its program to honoring Sindo Garay, who Spanish poet Federico García Lorca once called “ Cuba’s Pharaoh.” This emblematic theater played host to various outstanding artists such as Pepe Ordas, Eduardo Sosa, el Coro Entrevoces, Contemporary Dance of Cuba and Melodías Cubanas.

Attendees at the Festival also enjoyed a diverse range of performances, from those which took place at the at the National Theater, by traditional Spanish folk singer Pilar Boyero, accompanied by the National Symphony orchestra and maestro Enrique Mesa; Cuban dancer Irene Rodríguez and compatriot guitarist Reynier Mariño, to the presentation of the CD Son de Cuba y Puerto Rico, featuring Pancho Amat y su Cabildo del Son (Cuba), Tony Mapeyé, singer and composer; Chistian Nieves, composer; Carlos A. Martínez, guitarist; singer Christian Pagán, (Puerto Rico) and singer and guitarist Santiago Auserón “Juan Perro” (Spain), in the Casa de las Américas’ Che Guevara Hall.

Participating in this year’s edition of Cubadisco, were artists from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, the United States, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil, and Chile; including U.S. percussionists Valeri Naranjo and Barry Olsen, Puerto Rican group Mapeyé, traditional Spanish folk singer Pilar Boyero and her compatriot Santiago Auserón “Juan Perro”, who has collaborated with Maestro Pancho Amat on various occasions.

Spaces such as the Mella and National theaters, the Casa del Alba, CIDMUC, La Tropical and La Piragua, were among the wide range of venues in the capital which played host to this celebration in honor of Cuban trova and its musicians.