New Orleans and Havana are connected through history. Spain ruled both during a four-decade period in the late 1700s, and the two port cities traded more than commerce on the maritime route.
An indomitable musical culture survived the tragedy of the international slave trade, as enslaved people clung to the familiar in the face of immorality and unspeakable violence. Those traditions influenced the music in both cities and made a lasting connection.
At the invitation of the Cuban artist Cimafunk, musicians from two seemingly different cultures, many of whom were previously unaware of this connection, did a deep dive into these musical bonds.
And it was physically impossible to not be picturesque.
Havana recently celebrated its 500-year anniversary, so this cultural exchange took place amid the same grand buildings and narrow streets that once accommodated horses and carriages. It was also celebrated on stages that birthed more than one Cuban musical revolution.
The centerpiece of the events was a massive New Orleans second line parade through the streets of Havana Vieja, the oldest part of this historic city. Cubans jammed the doorways and balconies along the route to take in the visual spectacle; many others joined the celebration while adapting Cuban dance steps to fit the second line shuffle.
Music in these two cities serves the dual function of celebration and spiritual connector, giving the people a way to embrace life and the search for the divine.