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The Habaneras: Catalan or Cuban tradition?

In Catalunya the habanera is the most emblematic song and representative from the popular festivals. Nowadays, it is difficult to find a celebrationpopular festivity or similar that doesn’t include in its program an habaneras recital.

Some of the habaneras have become during these late years in real anthems of the popular and traditional culture in Catalonia, in the sense that they’re the songs that people sings when they meet for a celebration.



This musical style arrived to Catalonia through the sailors and navals between the 18th century and specially the 19th century, in those trips to Cuba for importation and exportation.

Among the different theories of the Habanera’s origin, for the coherence of its basis, the most reliable is the one that says that the firsts who started to sing and compose these songs were sailors who travelled to the West Indies (specifically the Antilles), as many of the lyrics of the first Habaneras tell us stories about the sailing world, the love and the lack of affection, the farewells, the sea and the boats, the mulattas, the Antilles, the battles, the longing and the rum, and how they were captivated by the beauty of the mulattas and the exotic landscape of the Caribbean.



This way, the fact of finding this musical style around the whole Iberian Peninsula, can make totter the argument that its provenance it’s exclusively from Cuba and its surroundings. Even if they took part of the lyrics or even the melody from Antilles’ musics and melodies, the composition was brand new, similar to a Spanish music style called Gaditan “tanguillo”, from the south of the Spanish country.

Therefore, whether it comes from Cuba, Spain or Catalunya itselfHabaneras’ first interpreters and authors were those sailors who cross the Atlantic to commercialize the products between Spain and Central America.

The first singings were completely improvised by the people living in the world of the sea, after a long hard working day, or on days with an awful weather, sheltering in taverns where they sang chants mixing what they learned from popular heritage.

These songs have put down deep roots in almost all coastal towns in Catalonia as well as inland, and therefore we can find that are written in Catalan or Spanish indifferently, being from the last century or from contemporary composers.

Currently, the performers of these songs are the children of those fishermen and workers who were dedicated to the sea, which have become professionalized groups, carrying the habanera and other styles of Tavern chants to festivities around Catalunya, and different parts of the peninsula.


If you are in Barcelona and you want to visit any Habaneras concert, this weekend you will have the chance!


Today Friday 8th of August, you will find an habaneras concert in Gran Casino Barcelona at 21.30h , performed by the group “Arjau”.

Tomorrow Saturday 9th ofAugust, you will find in the same place and at the same time another show by the group “Arrels de Terra Ferma”.

As well, next Wednesday 13th of August, you can enjoy a full concert of Habaneras by “Barcarola” at 22.00h in Plaça Nova, in the square of the Cathedral‘s main entrance motivated by the Sant Roc popular festivities.