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Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival: One of Cuba’s Best Music Events

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If you’re interested in attending a music event in Cuba, the Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival is definitely one you shouldn’t miss.

This popular festival is held every March in the beautiful city of Santiago de Cuba, the birthplace of various Cuban music genres including Cuban son and trova. In fact, Santiago served as a hub for trova music throughout the 20th century, and the city’s trova festival is nowadays one of the most important cultural events in Cuba.

Read on to learn more about The Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival and how to best experience this amazing music event.

singers in white clothes performing

Live Cuban band, Santiago de Cuba

Pepe Sanchez and the trovadores

The Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival began in 1962, making it now one of the oldest running music events in the country. It is named after José Sánchez, also known as Pepe, a Cuban musician and singer who is considered to be the father of trova music.

Born in 1856, Sánchez was a naturally talented composer who wrote and played his own songs on his guitar. Many musicians of the time were inspired by Sanchez, who had no formal training in music but was able to produce beautiful music and poetic lyrics. As a result, the city of Santiago saw a rise of self-taught musicians singing and playing the guitar in public spaces. These musicians became known as trovadores (troubadours), and they made a living from singing and playing their own songs across Santiago and Cuba’s Oriente province.

Eventually, trova music entered mainstream culture thanks to the radio. Following the Cuban Revolution, several established artists in Cuba started experimenting with new trova styles. This modernised form of trova became known as nueva trova. Whereas traditional trova songs had sentimental elements and were often about love and personal experiences, the musicians of nuevo trova took a more political stance, singing about issues that were prominent in Cuba in the 1960s, including socialism.

Some of the most remarkable trova artists (besides Sanchez) include Sindo Garay who, like Sanchez, had never studied music and yet produced some of the most iconic trova songs, and Faustino Oramas, an Afro-Cuban singer known for the double entendres in his songs.

The Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival

The Pepe Sanches Trova Festival pays homage to the country’s brilliant trovadores. Spread over five days, the festival celebrates trova with concerts across Santiago de Cuba, from the city’s music venues and theatres to its picturesque squares and parks. The event brings together trova artists from across Cuba, as well as international musicians, pairing traditional trova music with more contemporary trova music styles.

One of the highlights at the festival is the Ruta del Trovador, a parade that ends in the city’s Santa Ifigenia cemetery, where several trova artists, including Pepe Sanchez and Sindo Garay, are buried.

Whether you’re a musician or an aficionado of Latin music, visiting Santiago de Cuba during the Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival is a great way to immerse yourself in traditional Cuban music.

Sonora la Calle at Casa de la Trova, Santiago de Cuba

How to experience the festival

On our Cuba music holiday 
Our annual Cuba Music Holiday in Santiago de Cuba offers a full immersion into the local music scene. Not only do you get to watch bands performing live in the city’s atmospheric music venues, like the popular Casa de la Trova, but you also get the chance to play with a local band.

Whether you’re a professional musician or play an instrument as a hobby, our music workshops with local tutors will introduce you to the rhythms and beats of trova music. By the end of week, you’ll be able to play an instrument like a trova artist – whether it’s a guitar or saxophone, or a Cuban percussion instrument like claves and maracas. And the best part is – you get to form part of a band playing at the trova festival and perform at an informal concert.

lady singing with a band

Traditional Cuban Band, Casa de la Trova, Santiago de Cuba

On our Cuba dance holiday 
If you want to experience Santiago’s trova festival from the dancefloor, our Cuba dance holiday in March offers an equally amazing experience. Learn how to move your body to the rhythms of Cuban music, thanks to immersive dance classes delivered by professional dancers. This is a great opportunity to improve your salsa dance skills and experience Santiago’s lively music scene to the fullest by dancing at live music venues during the trova festival.


For more information about our music and dance holidays, feel free to contact us by email on info@caledoniaworldwide.com




About the Author
Daniela Frendo is a travel blogger based in Scotland. She studied social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and works as a freelance writer. Besides writing about the beautiful places that she visits, she also enjoys discovering new coffee shops and reading her way around the world with her ever-growing collection of travel books.