Primera Línea: An opportunity to approach Cuban music

Musician and composer Adalberto Álvarez is a member of the jury selecting groups to be featured in showcase concerts. Photo:

The International Music Forum will allow international professionals to better understand both the general and specific characteristics of Cuban music

Cuba is the island of music, which has become something of a brand, identifying it across the world. The objective of the Primera Línea International Music Forum is to show international professionals both its general and specific characteristics.

Commercial Vice President of the Cuban Music Institute (ICM), Alejandro Gumá, presented the second edition of this commercial event during a press conference held at the Cuban Music Research and Development Center (CIDMUC). He noted that experts will have the opportunity to “position themselves within the Cuban musical world, especially in traditional music, today’s jazz, urban music, DJs, and electroacoustics.”

Composers, singers, producers, record company and recording studio executives, among other specialists, will participate in the event, which will promote the potential of Cuba in the musical field, Gumá explained.

The second edition of Primera Línea will be held September 20 through 23, mainly at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, one of the architectural gems of the city, although this is not the only institution involved.

The Forum is organized by the Cuban Ministry of Culture, the ICM, and record companies Egrem, Artex, and Colibrí, and is also supported by WOMEX (the World Music Expo), and Spanish company Endirecto, which operates in Cuba.

Gumá recalled that the first event was held in September 2016, as it was considered “necessary for Cuban music to have an international fair,” and the idea was brought to fruition “after four years of work between our institutions and the organizers of WOMEX,” which has held similar events in Europe and other countries in Asia and Africa since 1994.

“In that first edition we saw the presence of 88 international professionals and more than 200 Cubans. We consider it a success,” Gumá stressed.

He explained that organizers participated last October in WOMEX 16, held in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where they presented the invitation to participate in the second edition of Primera Línea, saying, “There was huge interest. We expect some 150 international and 450 national delegates this year.”

Questioned as to what the event will consist of, theICM vice president noted: “Business roundtables, specialized conferences on these topics, showcases of Cuban groups who will be selected to be presented to international professionals.”

Gumá added that, as is typical in this type of event, it will also be characterized by networking sessions, to be held in the Grand Theater’s Carpentier Hall, while mini-concerts will be held “in the new Egrem facility at 31st and 2nd streets, in the Havana municipality of Playa, which is about to be inaugurated.”

Regarding the groups to be showcased, Mabel Castillo, director of Artistic Development at ICM, stated, “The call was aimed at different types of music according to their commercial potential, and given the characteristics of our professional catalogs, we opted for popular music as one of the main sources, in addition to the traditional, pop, trova, DJs (an international phenomenon), vocalists, jazz, and this year concert music was included, because it has excellent projects.”

Castillo noted that they have already received 130 proposals from 18 cultural institutions (national and provincial centers, record companies, the Hermanos Saíz Association), and the time has come to make the selection, as only 15 groups will be presented.

A panel of judges including Castillo, the outstanding musician and composer Adalberto Álvarez, and journalist Pedro de la Hoz will make the final selection.

Castillo explained that various other venues for presentations are under consideration, with the interest of promoting more Cuban groups, in addition to those performing in the 15 showcase mini-concerts, and during the opening and closing galas.

In this regard, she mentioned that this year the event will extend to other provinces, with the support of the cultural tourism agency Paradiso. “After the Fair ends on the 23rd, professionals who purchase this type of program will visit Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Matanzas, and finally Havana with a huge concert on the 30th.”

The Primera Línea Forum will be a showcase of Cuban music, an opportunity for artists, enterprises, and record companies. Given its scope, an academic event is also being organized.

This broad, thematic program (new technologies, the music market, management) will see the participation of speakers from Spain, the United States, and some African countries.

Cuba is the island of music. The Second Primera Línea International Music Forum opens up a new space for exchange, to allow international music industry professionals to meet their Cuban counterparts, especially the younger generation of artists.

By Mireya Castaneda

This entry was posted in Cultural. Bookmark the permalink.