2009 saw the birth of a new collaborative project and long-term partnership between Gilles and Havana Club under the moniker “Havana Cultura”.
Havana Cultura is a global initiative developed by Havana Club International (producer of Havana Club) to give a unique platform to today’s Cuban artists from all disciplines. Launched in 2007 through the website, www.havana-cultura.com, it showcases news of album releases, gigs and tours, and samples of new music, films, art works and dance projects which all give viewers a unique and deep insight into Havana’s contemporary cultural scene.
Sharing the same vision, Gilles and Brownswood’s adventure with Havana Cultura began two years later, burrowing deep to the heart of Havana’s music underground resulting in four album releases and three international tours.
The first of these album projects released in 2010, ‘Havana Cultura: New Cuba Sound’, represented the biggest collection of contemporary Cuban musicians in a single musical initiative since the highly acclaimed Buena Vista Social Club project in 1997. Travelling to Cuba in 2009, Gilles teamed up with the award-winning Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca to find the very best up and coming musical talent in Havana. With Peterson at the helm, the double CD album was a celebration of Cuba’s brightest musical forces spanning Latin, Afro jazz and fusion to hip-hop, funk, reggaeton and soul and the spaces in-between.
Then, in support of this incredible project Gilles began a European tour in June/July 2010, accompanied by Fonseca, his band and vocalists Danay Suarez, Ogguere and Obsesión. This was the first of three tours organised in close collaboration with Havana Club. The Gilles Peterson Havana Cultura band has now travelled through Europe and beyond with shows in London (Barbican), Paris, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Berlin and Madrid, as well as gracing the festival circuit with appearances including Roskilde, Worldwide, Bordeaux Jazz Festival.
With Gilles living as much in the electronic/dance scene as in the jazz world, the decision to commission remixes of selected tracks from the ‘New Cuba Sound’ album the was an obvious one. Enlisting a squad of big-hitting producers that he trusted to do justice to the original jams; Louie Vega, MJ Cole, 4hero, Carl Cox, Rainer Trüby, Gotan Project’s Philippe Cohen Solal, Seiji, Michel Cleis and Mocky – all veterans of the Worldwide underground and all equipped with the skills and experience to flip Havana Cultura onto a another level. To maximise the Cuban flavour, DJ Wichy and Doble Filo were cut loose on their favourites from the album. The results were released together on the Havana Cultura Remixed album; another 2CD release in conjunction with Havana Club.
Continuing his longstanding love affair with Cuba and its musical melting pot, Gilles returned to Havana in 2011 alongside co-producers Vince Vella; Simbad (Gilles’ production partner in his remixing endeavours); and bass pioneer Mala (Digital Mystikz), to orchestrate and record new studio sound clashes with a fresh crop of Cuban talent.
‘Havana Cultura: The Search Continues’ is the next chapter in Peterson’s excursion under the skin of the Cuban underground. This album underlined the same spirit of experimentation and raised a clutch of new talent including Djoyvan, Afrikun, Kola Loka and the Creole Choir of Cuba.
Travelling with the rest of the 2011 crew, Mala (Digital Mystikz) was also invited to Cuba with Gilles Peterson to record and collaborate with local musicians as part of the on-going Havana Cultura project. The results are found on the album ‘Mala in Cuba’ – which was released on Brownswood Recordings in partnership with Havana Cultura on 10th September 2012.
A devotee of Jamaican sound system culture and universally respected as an innovator and leader not only within the global dubstep movement but also within the broader electronic realm, Mala led from the front as the first waves of so-called “dubstep” filtered out from Croydon’s Big Apple Records, battering bassbins across South London in 2002/03 alongside the likes of Skream, Benga, Coki and Loefah. The results of a true culture clash, ‘Mala in Cuba’ married the intricate rhythms and deep, spiritual roots of Cuba with Mala’s own roots in South London and his dedication to bass culture.
Eurostar presents Traction
The London 2012 Festival was the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, in which 18 million people participated in cultural projects in the lead up to 2012. It ran from 21 June – 9 September and offered an opportunity for people across the UK to participate in events programmed to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
As an official supporter of London 2012, Eurostar were looking to have a cultural presence beyond their involvement in carrying Olympic and Paralympic fans from the continent to London and so invited Gilles to curate an original and unique music event on their behalf as part of the London 2012 Festival.
The one-day, sold-out event on July 14th called ‘Eurostar presents Traction’ was the first event to take place in a new space, Granary Square just a stone’s throw from Eurostar’s central London hub, St. Pancras International.
The concept behind the festival was to bring a truly European flavor to the London 2012 Festival through a celebration of music and culture from the key European markets – UK, France, Holland, Germany, Belgium with and eclectic line-up of musical acts booked from each of those countries. In addition there were international food stalls and art installations also representative of each of these Euro territories.
The musical highlights included from the UK, Mercury Music Prize nominee, Ghostpoet, London three-piece Plugs, Holland’s funky jazz artist Benny Sings, Belgian spoken word performer Baloji & l’Orchestre de la Katuba as well as Parisian Sébastien Tellier and Brandt Brauer Frick from Germany.
Media partner for this boutique event included The Guardian who featured in the run up to the event in their music section a series of weekly themed podcasts presented by Gilles and which showcased his tips on the up and coming talent from a different European city. The event was celebrated into the early hours of the next day with an after-party event at the nearby Electrowerkz in Angel with Troumaca and Mo’ Colours.