Rufus Wainwright to Host Musical Havana Getaway

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Rufus Wainwright performs on Dec. 12, 2014 in New York City.  

"When so much is ruled by technology, there’s a real dying of street culture, but in Cuba it’s alive and well," Wainwright tells Billboard.

Rufus Wainwright readily admits he’s in love with Cuba. After all, he’s been to the island three times already. But his upcoming fourth is a major twist.

On September 21-25, Wainwright will host “Wainwright Libre: Rufus in Havana,” four days “celebrating the sights and sounds of Havana,” according to his website.

The four-day excursion is a mix of tourism and music that will have Wainwright performing two shows while visitors have the opportunity to embark on a series of sightseeing tours, dance nights and dining. It’s both an artistic and business venture, and although the aim is not political, Wainwirght admits that politics, in this day and age, always has a role.

“I’m not [going] to make a political statement, but being an American and living in the United States -- although I’m also Canadian -- and also being somewhat sane and reasonable, it’s impossible not to be political at the moment,” Wainwright tells Billboard.

Politics was not the originator of this trip, however. “I’m always ready to go to Cuba,” says Wainwright, who in previous trips has visited Havana’s opera house and toyed with the idea of playing a concert in the city. “It’s an ongoing relationship, and all of a sudden this wonderful opportunity came up to do a bunch of artistic things and really make it an experience.”

Wainwright will play two performances: one solo for the traveling group and another one with a full orchestra and with Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Varela, which will be open to the public.  

“It’s about the meeting of these two movements, which is a tried-and-tested tradition between the United States and Cuba, and now more important than ever considering what’s happening politically in both countries,” adds Wainwright, who knows Varela and performed with him at a friend’s party.

The repertoire is still in flux and Wainwright has been listening to different kinds of Cuban music. Of particular interest is the Cuban underground scene, which he’s explored in previous trips. “Especially in this day and age, when so much is ruled by technology, there’s a real dying of street culture, but in Cuba it’s alive and well,” he says.

Wainwright is part of a growing number of U.S. musicians who are performing in Cuba in different formats and venues.

Most recently, Herbie Hancock, Chucho Valdes, Cassandra WilsonEsperanza Spalding, Ambrose AkinmusireGonzalo Rubalcaba and Marcus Miller announced they’d be taking part in an April 30 concert celebrating International Jazz Day in Havana.

And Dreamcatcher events, the company behind the Wainwright trek, is also organizing a similar trip hosted by Ben Folds in May and another one with Melissa Etheridge in June.

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