Cuban Music Holidays

Cuban Music Holidays


14th-21st April 2019

Cuban Music Course, Havana, Cuba

COST £900/Students £800

Join Sara McGuinness, Jesus Bello and a team of fantastic Cuban musicians for a week of music making in the heart of Havana. We will set up for a week in Silvio Rodriguez’s Abdala studios. There we will have the advantage of a fully equipped, purpose built rehearsal space, a friendly café, and be able to soak up the buzz of one of Cuba’s principal recording studios. The studio is in Miramar, to the west of the city, we will transport you to and from your casas in the heart of Centro Havana.


  • 40 hours of taught music making and directed practice
  • Transport to and from rehearsals
  • Accommodation and breakfast in our friendly local ‘casas’
  • Evening meals for 6 evenings by our own fantastic cook Mary (one is free for you to go out to a restaurant)
  • Percussion and rhythm workshops
  • Extra time slots for individual and group practice
  • Taught sessions on the history and development of Cuban musical styles
  • Ensemble playing
  • Performances by top Cuban ensembles
  • Recommendations on music to see in Havana in the evenings

Not included in the price but we can organise:

  • Optional individual classes
  • Optional dance classes


Sara McGuinness and Jesus Bello (see biogs below) host a week-long music course in Havana, Cuba. The course will be held in Silvio Rodriguez’s Abdala Studio complex in Miramar, Havana.

The course is designed to cater for musicians both with and without experience of Cuban music performance. In an intensive week of activity we combine music making with essential background knowledge about the development and structure of Cuban music. Music making is interspersed with visits to live music performances across a wide range of Cuban music genres.

We have been teaching courses in Havana for over 10 years, striking out on our own in 2015 with resounding success.In 2015 and 2016 we were joined by the legendary Cuban flautist Joaquim Olivera, and Yelfris Valdes, Cuban trumpeter formerly of Sierra Maestra but now UK-based.

In addition to music making top Rumba dancer Jesus ‘Toto’ Morales, gave presentations and demonstrations of Cuban dance styles and Afro-Cuban religions. Leading Cuban musicologist Sonia Perez gave a talk about her work on education projects with her husband, Buena Vista Social Club L’Aud player Babarito Torres.

We plan to work with the same team this year, as well as other musicians tailored to  the instrumentalists we get on the course. 


We want to make this trip a unique experience where you can interact with local Cubans and really get a feel of Cuban culture at the same time as benefiting the local Cuban community in Centro Habana.

To this end we have gathered together a wonderful team of Cubans to look after you. You will stay in beautiful home stays in the heart of Centro Havana co-ordinated by Carmela and Dulce. We are sure that many of you may wish to stay longer, we can help with arranging accommodation for extra nights.

We have contracted a local caterer Mari to cook for us. Her food is probably the most delicious that we have ever tasted in Cuba. She is happy to cater for all dietary needs. With the help of her husband, she sets up every evening in a local hall that we hire for the week. 


We will organize outings to a range of Cuban musical activities. The exact details will be confirmed close to the date. However, to give you an idea, in 201516 musical performances included the following:

  • Orquesta Enrique Jorrin in Palacio De La Rumba
  • Conjunto Arsenio Rodriguez in Almanecer.
  • Clave Y Guaguanco in UNEAC
  • Timbalaye in the Patio de Egrem
  • Festival of Percussion Teatro Mella featuring Interactivo, Nomad Collective from the UK featuring Yelfris Valdes, and a US school big band.
  • Clave Y Guaguanco and Septeto Habanero in Palacio De La Rumba
  • Pupy y Los que Son Son in Casa de La Musica, Galiano
  • Manolito y Su Trabuco in Casa de La Musica, Galiano

In addition to these, we heard many musical performances in Cafés, Bars and on the Malecon (sea front). Several members of the course sat in with bands.


Jesus Bello hails from Santa Clara, in the centre of Cuba which is steeped in the Cuban son tradition.  Throughout his career Jesus has combined life as a professional musician with education. Accolades include winning the Cuba-wide competition “Sonero del Año” as a singer, several years touring the world with Cuban  L’aud Maestro Barbarito Torres of Buena Vista Social Club and 7 years as the lead singer of renowned Cuban son band Sierra Maestra. Whilst he has gained fame as a vocalist, Jesus is a talented multi-instrumentalist and has taught music at the school of arts in Santa Clara for over 20 years. One of his latest projects, which has gained national recognition, is to train a band of students in traditional Charanga style. Last year Jesus moved on from Sierra Maestra to pursue his own project ‘La Sonera Rebelion’.

Sara McGuinness is well known on the UK Salsa scene, having worked as a piano player, bandleader and educator in the field of Cuban music for more than 20 years. She has studied and worked with many great Cuban and Latin musicians both in Cuba, the UK, USA and abroad. For the last nine years she has been the principal tutor on Cuban music courses in Havana and the UK. She also runs the 30 strong, successful Cuban big band “Orquesta Estelar” and leads regular Cuban descargas (jam sessions) in London. 

Joaquim Olivera Cuba has a great charanga flute tradition and Joaquim is one of the main proponents of this. His list of credits include many of the Cuban greats including Enrique Jorrin, Frank Emilio and Los Amigos, Orquesta Aragon, Charanga Rubalcaba. He is the main player of the Cuban 5 key wooden flute but is equally at home on the standard silver flute. Not only is he a wonderful musician, Joaquim has a deep knowledge of the charanga style and a passion for communicating his knowledge. He brings his tremendous energy and passion to everything that he does.

Yelfris Valdes is an accomplished Cuban trumpet player. Before graduating from the National Conservatoire in Havana he was snapped up by Sierra Maestra, one of Cuba’s main son bands. For nine years he toured the world with Sierra Maestra, immersing himself in Cuban Son with this seasoned band. At the same time he managed to keep a lively career going playing with Cuban jazz and contemporary artists. In 2014 he decided to move to London as he wanted exposure to the wider musical world. He has quickly established himself as a principal player on the UK Cuban scene and is much sought after by artists for a wide range of traditions stretching from funk to classical, reggae to folk.

Jesus ‘Toto’ Morales is hailed as one of Cuba’s great rumba dancers, as demonstrated by his position with Clave y Guaguanco, one of the principal groups. He has dedicated his life to Afro-Cuban dance styles and has a deep knowledge of the religions and associated dance as well as popular dance styles. Toto has the ability to communicate complex ideas with clarity and accessibility. He is also an amazing dancer across all Cuban styles and an asset to the course.


To guarantee your place please email us with your instrument and send a deposit of £100 to:

Malecon Productions Limited

Bank Account 77182596

Sort Code 600336



The fantastic Emilio Valdes on Tres:

Dancing to Orquesta Enrique Jorrin (feat Joaquim Olivera) in Palacio De La Rumba:

Jesus explaining the basic bongo part:

Joaquim Olivera demonstrating the Montuno section of a danzon:

Toto and Ariana demonstrating Son dance moves:

Yelfris demonstrating improvisation on montuno:

Toto + Ariana give a display of dance of Afro Cuban Makuta