Learning congas in Havana

A new project has been started, everybody is invited to partecipate .... visit the forum to view more...

Learning congas in Havana

Postby classyjoes » Thu May 26, 2011 12:47 pm

Hi, I recently spent 4 months taking an intensive course for congas in Havana.

I was totally new to the instrument and wanted to write this post as it is often difficult to find reliable information (if any) on conga teachers in Cuba. There's also a whole load of people when you get there who are willing to give you lessons, but the quality of these people and their ability to teach vary massively. So the following is a review of my teacher plus his contact details, as well as a list of good places to go and see Cuban rumba/folklore percussion.

My teacher was Juan Carlos Pinol tel: 8337511, el Vedado.

I had 4 months with him so we managed to get through a lot of stuff. I really like him as a teacher as he was very thorough with technique as well as warming up to avoid injuries - vital if you want to avoid bad calluses. In terms of rhythms, we started on 3-2 clave (Son based rhythms) then eventually after a couple of months progressed to 6/8 times and last 2-3 clave rhythms (Rumba, rolklore). He was always very focussed and attentive, very committed to me as a student and someone that clearly enjoyed seeing people progress. He was also good at pacing my teaching - always giving me enough so I was being pushed but never to the point of overload. He is not a theory based teacher, but teaches (and learnt) by ear. He has been playing for over 20 years and I believe has a very solid system. At least I felt like I came away with a very good base to progress from. He also gives 2 hour lessons, instead of the usual 1 hour, for the same price.

This website is a must for anyone wanting to see music in Havana. It only lists the bigger events, but is one of the only sources of online information.

Weds (every other) - UNEAC (Union Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba) Calle 17, between Calle J and H, El Vedado.
Some of Cuba's best rumba and folklore groups play in the outdoor courtyard. Entry 5CUC. Starts at 4:30/5pm. On every other Wedsnesday. tel: 8324551

Thurs/Fri - Los Estudios de Egrem. When I was there Los Rumberos de Cuba (one of the top national Rumba groups) played here every Friday at 4pm. 10CUC entry. I don't remember exactly the address, but it's near El Capitolio - the big capital building in the Old Town (looks like the congress building - you really can't miss it!)

Saturday - Conjunto folklorico, Calle Calzada between calle 2 and 4, near the Hotel Melia Cohiba, El Vedado. Excellent Rumba groups play here every saturday from 3pm (or 12pm? can't remember). 5-10CUC. tel: 8334560/8303939

Sunday - Callejon de Hamel, Nr la Universidad de Habana, Centro Habana
A small pedestrianised road in Centro Habana between San Lazaro and Neptuno near the university. It is an area dedicated to Afro-Cuban culture, with workshops, art and most importantly music. Amazing place to see live rumba by some very talented up and coming musicians. Very vibrant, loads of people. FREE. Starts around midday. Not to be missed. This was my regular Sunday for 5 months and I never got bored going and it's just a really nice place to hang out.

Thurs-Sun: try and catch La Giganteria - a musical street performing ensomble that play conga through the streets of old Havana everyday thurs-sun. they start in la plaza de armas at 11am, then parade through to la plaza vieja, then back again. 3 hours. Free and lots of fun, plus some excellent conga!

Other places - El Palacio de la Rumba. not a nice venue, but do have some very good shows. Just round the corner from the Callejon de Hamel on San Miguel, between calle hospital and calle Aramburu. It's facing a small park.

Teatro Mella - Linea between calle a and b sometimes has rumba events.

Cotorro - 20 mins outside Havana - for the adventurers out there. 3 times a week there are Rumba classes, mainly dancing, but always accompanied by live percussion in a renovated cinema complex in the suburb of Cotorro on the outskirts of Havana. The centre is a cultural centre for music where locals can come and learn rumba. I knew the guy that ran it and I was the only non-Cuban there. It's very much a local affair - teaching local people Rumba (and casino on other days). A great place and a really authentic experience. If you want to join in the group dancing lesson it will be 5-10CUC per person, or you can just hang out and watch. Very nice people and a glimpse of Rumba how it's really done in Cuba, no frills, no glossy brochures, just music and dancing! Awesome. for details on how to get there call Lazaro Betancourt 52729755 or Williams (for better English) 5353611470
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu May 26, 2011 12:04 pm

Re: Learning congas in Havana

Postby ABAKUA » Thu May 26, 2011 11:52 pm

EGREM is on Neptuno, Centro Havana.

El Palacio de la Rumba. not a nice venue
- What did you mean by this? Sure it aint a stuck up place made all fancy for foreigners but then again, not exactly what rumba is about...
I personally didnt find anything wrong with the venue, not only performed there but also spent a fair bit of time there with several of the acts who would perform there frequently.
Tables are out of the way of the show and the dance floor, bottles of rum are sold at 7 CUC, great view of the stage from all over the club, loads of history in the venue. Some of the patrons may be a bit on the seedy side, but then again, the club is located in a humble part of Havana, its expected.
I look forward to spending time there again later this year when I go back.

Sunday afternoons for matine show at Delierio Habanero, Yoruba Andabo currently holds the residency. Solid 4-5 hours worth of rumba.

Sat & Sun @ El Palenque also for good rumba, as well as selected nights during the week.

There are alot of sources for learning in Havana, alot of the major players/big names also happy to teach as well.

Sounds like you had a great experience in Havana, thanks for sharing. I was there from Nov - Jan, cant wait to go back later in the year.
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 3198
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2004 11:59 pm
Location: Earth

Return to The CongaZine

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest