Colombian Singer Juanes To Offer Concert In Havana

By Dialogo
August 05, 2009

Colombian rocker Juanes wants to hold his second "Peace Without Borders" concert in Havana's storied Revolution Plaza next month with a host of regional stars — and says he has met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in hopes that American musicians can join the extravaganza. In what could be the latest sign the art world is well into a thaw of nearly a half century of icy U.S.-Cuba relations, Juanes' manager, Fernan Martinez, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the concert will be Sept. 20. He said organizers are waiting for Cuban government permission to use the sprawling concrete plaza, which is flanked by a huge homage to fallen Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and houses offices for Fidel and Raul Castro. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans gather there each May 1 for International Workers' Day celebrations. A similarly huge crowd could come to rock, making the event one of the top Cuban concerts in recent memory. The first installment of Juanes' "Peace Without Borders" concert in March drew 100,000 fans to the border between Venezuela and Colombia. The Cuba concert coincides with U.N. International Peace Day and could feature up to 12 artists from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba and, Martinez said, the United States. He refused to divulge all the names. Washington's 47-year-old trade embargo prohibits Americans from doing business with Cuba, but performers can get permission to come from the Treasury Department. For now, Martinez said, the show will feature at least Juanes and Spanish singer Miguel Bose. "Following the lead of the first concert ... the event will use music as a tool to transcend politics and demonstrate unity of peoples beyond borders," Martinez said. He said Juanes, who has started a foundation to help land-mine victims, met with Clinton "to present the concept for the concert" and that "the requests for U.S. artists are currently in process with the Treasury Department." Martinez said the singer also met recently with Treasury officials and Congress, as well as leaders of key Cuban exile groups in Miami to help ensure U.S. stars come for the show. Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma carried a small story Tuesday saying Juanes would perform in Havana on Sept. 20, and that the concert would feature an open-air venue and be centered around the color white, signifying peace. It made no mention of Revolution Plaza, however. The paper quoted Cuban Institute of Music vice president Osmany Lopez in reporting that Cuban folk legend Silvio Rodriguez and local salsa stars Los Van Van would participate. Lopez told Granma that Juanes visited Cuba in June and met with Rodriguez, a pioneering member of the island's "New Song" movement who mixes music with staunch defense of the Castro government and Cuban revolutionary politics. Juanes, whose Spanish-language hits include "A Dios le pido," ''La camisa negra" and "Me enamora," has won 17 Latin Grammy trophies, more than any other artist. His "Peace Without Borders" on the border between Colombia and Venezuela featured Bose, Juan Luis Guerra, Alejandro Sanz, Carlos Vives and other stars who wore white and sang on the Simon Bolivar bridge between the two South American countries.