Music fans are traveling to Cuba this month for the Havana International Jazz Plaza Festival, which kicked off Dec. 11 and swings on until Sunday (Dec. 18). It coincides with Havana’s film festival, where Rolling Stones – Havana Moon, a documentary about the group’s concert in Cuba is among the music-themed offerings.
Less well known are Cuba’s music video awards, the Premios Lucas, whose winners will be revealed this weekend (Dec. 17 and 18) during two galas at Havana’s Karl Marx theater. The awards have existed since 1997, but it is much more recently that the music video format has become a calling card for Cuban directors, animators and, of course, musicians.
Over 281 videos were entered this year for Lucas consideration. The nominees, in 32 categories, were selected by a jury that includes film veterans and musicians.
If you are not traveling to Cuba this December, an entertaining and enlightening armchair visit to the island can be had by screening some of the nominated videos, which include clips in short film format, and some ingenious animations.
Watch a sample of the nominated Cuban music clips below. Voting is open on the awards’ web site through Dec. 17 to decide the ten most popular Cuban videos of year.
“Paciencia,” Ray Fernandez
Directed by Luis Lago
For folk singer Ray Fernandez’s symbolic song “Paciencia,” Luis lago created a short film with decadent characters, surrealist visions and references to Cuban contemporary history. Fernandez, who has a gift for comedy although his lyrics touch on more serious subjects, is a joy to watch.
“Paciencia” is nominated in the Best Trova Video category.
“En El Solar,” Krudas Cubensi
Directed by Vitiko
The female hip-hop duo Krudas Cubensi (also known as Las Krudas) live in Austin, where they’ve made a name in the gay community and beyond. Odaymara Cuesta and Olivia Prendes returned to Havana for this video, which shows a slice of real life in a Cuban apartment building, revealing “what’s not posted on Facebook and what you don’t find on Internet.”
“En el Solar” is nominated in the Best Hip Hop Video category.
“I’ll See You In Cuba,” Pablo Menendez and Mezcla
Directed by Juan Padrón and Ernesto Padrón
Animation junkies may be thrilled to know that Juan Padrón and Ernesto Padrón, responsible for the cult classic Vampiros en la Habana (Vampires in Havana), directed this video for Pablo Menendez and his group Mezcla.
Menendez, born in Oakland, but a Cuban resident since his childhood, recorded a wry cover of Irving Berlin’s 1920 prohibition era song “I’ll See You in Cuba.”
The timely tune, with lyrics like, “everyone who’s got the ticket price should visit Cuba,” is matched by an animated collage of characters caught carousing in Havana, including Marilyn Monroe, The Marx Brothers Ernest Hemingway, Louis Armstrong and King Kong.
“I’ll See You in Cuba” is nominated in the Fusion Music Video category.
“Congo Bronx,” Yasek Manzano
Directed by Francesco Meliciani
In this summer night’s dream of a video, Julliard-trained Cuban jazz trumpet player Manzano and other musicians perform on the streets of Havana; even on top of a moving car. Dancers, kids, capoeira performers and African rhythms convene.
Nominated for Best Debut, the video for “Congo Bronx” was directed by Italian Francesco Meliciani.
“La Vuelta al Mundo,” Alexander Abreu y Havana
De Primera Feat. Luis Enrique
Directed by Josep Ros
The popular timba band Habana De Primera join with Miami-based salsa singer Luis Enrique to gather with a crew of flight attendants for some air strip shimmying before taking off on “a trip around the world”.
“La Vuelta al Mundo” is nominated in the Popular Dance Music Video category.
“Cocodrilo,” Barbarito Torres y su Piqueteel
Directed by Tupac Pinilla, Ivette Avila and Ramiro Zardoya
Buena Vista Social Club veteran Barbarito Torres and a team of Cuban video directors turned out a charming animated fairy tale, featuring an audience of adorable kids.
“Cocodrilo” is nominated in the Traditional or Folkloric Music Video category.
“Mal Acompañada,” Mauricio Figueiral & Adrián Berazaín
Directed by Mauricio Figueiral & Adrián Berazaín
In a country not well known for straight-up Latin pop, Mauricio Figueiral & Adrián Berazaín are artists to watch. The duo show their dark sense of humor in the video “Mal Acompañada,” whose highlight is really the duo’s acoustic performance.
“Mal Acompañada,” directed by the artists themselves, is nominated in the Rock-Pop Video category.