How to find out who's on where: residencies
As I've mentioned in previous chapters of The Timba Geek's Guide to Havana (see sidebar), finding out who's playing where (and when) is an arduous task. The most reliable information comes from the horse's mouths - the musicians themselves. But, amiable as they are, they can't be friends with everyone (though they sometimes try). And even when you do know them, getting in contact with them isn't always an easy task, such are communications in Havana.
Spending two hours everyday listening to Disco Fiesta isn't an option for people with limited time and lots to do. But there is another way: residencies - or penas, in the local parlance - have become increasingly popular. Some are off and on, lasting maybe six weeks or a few months: Los Van Van, for instance, can't sustain one for long, because they tour so much; while smaller bands will get booted out of a residency if a bigger one comes back from tour or recording and wants the slot. But others are so concrete, that the only way they don't happen is if the particular band is out of the country.
This is a list of the residencies that have lasted for a year or more. It's most likely to change from June-August, when almost all of these bands go to Europe for the summer festivals. But no matter what time of year it is, it's always a good idea to either check timba.com's tours page, or phone the venue first.
If you have any additions, let me know.
Pachito Alonso y su Kini Kini, Casa de la Musica, Miramar
Audience often populated with local luminaries.
Salsa Mayor, Cafe Cantante
Maikel Blanco and crew started this regular gig sometime in between my '08 and '09 trips, and they are still doing it, according to Egrem's cartelera. It's a late one - it's unlikely they'll start before 1 (and more likely to be 1.15am). Lots of foreigners.
Havana D'Primera, Casa de la Musica, Miramar
They've been doing this one for more than a year now. Great environment in which to see them play: lots of fanaticos singing along give the gig a great vibe.
Pedrito Calvo y su Nueva Justicia, Casa de la Musica
Sometimes does the Wednesday matinee as well.
Bamboleo, Casa de la Musica, Galiano
Bamboleo have been playing this very popular gig since '07. It'll be packed and messy. Wear close-toed shoes.
Adalberto Alvarez, Casa de la Musica, Miramar
I first saw these guys play this pena in 2002 - don't know how long before that they started, but they are still doing it, eight years later.
Manolito y su Trabuco, Cafe Cantante
They started doing this when I was there in 2006, and play there every week as long as they are in town. They go on at 7pm or 8pm, depending on whether they have a support. Often play there Saturday nights as well, but check.
Alaín Daniel, Hotel Capri, Salon Rojo, Vedado
Since Alaín got too big for the tiny, but fun, Cabaret Las Vegas on Infanta, Thursday nights at the Capri is Alain's house. He'll be on after 12.30am - probably at 1. There'll be a hideous PMM show first with obnoxious recorded house and reggaeton, and models trying to dance. The audience isn't much more bearable. The band kicks arse though. It's often the only time he plays in Havana. Grin and bear it.
NG la Banda, Diablo Tun Tun*
If you have any energy after Manolito and Alaín, you can kick on with NG at Miramar, upstairs from Casa de la Musica.
NG la Banda Casa de la Musica, Miramar*
I've never been to this gig but I've been scanning Havana gig guides long enough to know that this night at Miramar has belonged to El Tosco's crew for a long time.
Saturday night and Sunday matinee
Bamboleo, Casa de la Musica, Miramar
Bamboleo owns Miramar from midnight on Saturday through till Sunday night. Have done for a few years (waaay too long).
Yoruba Andabo, Delirio Habanero*
The Afro-Cuban dance group has played this venue upstairs from Cantante for years.
NG la Banda, Delirio Habanero*
Another long-established regular gig for El Tosco's crew. Sometimes do a three-for-one deal on the door, so ask about that.
* I notice that none of these are listed at this week's Egrem cartelera, but they have been such stalwarts for so long, I'm leaving them on the list. If they haven't returned to these days/venues within a couple of months, I'll delete them.