It is not an exaggeration to say that the heart and soul of Cuba is found within their music. Woven into the beats of the island are notes of its deep traditions, varied religious expressions and multiple ethnicities. These rich musical undertones are a direct reflection of the complex nuances of the island’s history. This sounds of Havana immersion is a cultural people-to-people cultural exchange built on connection and a chance to better understand the life in Cuba today. On our journey we meet a diverse cross section of working musicians in the private sector from one of the most vibrant musical communities in the world.
This program presents a journey into all forms of Cuban song as we explore traditional trova and then delve into world music and jazz through groups like Sintesis, Yissy & Bandancha and Eme Alfonso. We learn about experimental and contemporary music represented by the innovative and fearless artists such as the Ensemble Interactivo de La Habana and an important space is held to experience the Afro Cuban music expressions like Yorubá, Arará, Regla de Palo de Ocha, by learning about their original, secret rituals and bembés.
Our goal is not to go from one fixed, prearranged performance to another, but to experience each music in a different context, realizing a multi-layered view that includes rehearsals and casual meetings with musicians, often the more underground or unknown spaces of true Cuban musicians. Join Jennifer and Pepe on a visual and auditory immersion into the sounds of Cuba which offers each participant the unique opportunity to interact meaningfully by exchanging ideas and experiences with members of Havana’s vibrant music community.
COVID-19 Update: For all in-person workshops and trips in 2023, Santa Fe Workshops highly recommends that all participants, staff, and instructors attending be up to date with Covid vaccinations (per definition of the CDC). For international trips, local laws will apply, so it is important that you confirm you will be fully vaccinated according to the countries on your trip.
This SFW Cuba program is open to amateur, advanced amateur and professional photographers. Enrollment is limited to eight participants.
Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. Participants should be in very good health with good stamina and mobility, as long days are spent exploring—this means walking, sometimes for two to three hours at a time, occasionally up steep stairs, steep hills, and along uneven terrain. This program also involves many late evenings.
Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer and member of the Jibaro Photos Collective. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.
Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.
A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co- instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Romania, India, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.
A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »
Pepe Gavilondo Péon is a Cuban musician, composer, professor of music, and photographer. He has studied music since the age of 7 and in 2014 got his Degree in Musical Composition at the Arts University in Havana. He has worked alongside several Cuban and foreign choreographers and his music has accompanied performances in Cuba, Mexico, United States, and Spain. Pepe is the keyboard player of the famous Grammy-nominated band Sintesis, with whom he also worked as the arranger and orchestrator in two concerts performances in 2015. He also works as a pianist with Cuban songwriters Ariel Díaz and the Lien y Rey duet.
Pepe is part of the staff and specialist of Classical Music at Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC), Cuba’s top contemporary art center. He is director and interpreter of the Ensemble Interactivo de La Habana (EIH), an experimental music and improvisation orchestra with whom he has participated in national events like the Festival of Contemporary Music of Havana (Festival de La Habana), the Arts University Festival, the Habana en movimiento street dance Festival, and the Premio de Composición Casa de Las Américas.
As a photographer, Pepe explores two basic worlds — abstract macro photography and street portraits.