Clasicos a lo cubano – Live in Havana

Sverre Indris Joner & The Cuban Opera Orchestra

Record Details

31. may, 2024
classical latin

This is the story of Sverre Indris Joner from Norway bringing his intriguing salsa-arrangements of the classics to the Cuban opera orchestra in Havana. He came to  “sell sand in the Sahara” – literally showing cubans how to play salsa, or at least how to turn the great classics of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms into authentic Cuban music. How? And, maybe more importantly, why? And… can this go well?

Joner started his «genre-detour» at 15, with Reggae, West-African Highlife and Afrobeat, and the seductive complexity of African rhythms led him to explore the African roots in Latin America. In 1985, he went on a study-trip to Havana with some friends. This encounter left a deep impression. Back in Norway, he formed Norway’s first salsa band, La Descarga, insisting that all Norwegians should appreciate this rich music traditions from Cuba.

He got the idea of writing unlikely genre-transformed music. With his quartet Tango for 3, everything from ABBA to Grieg was turned into Argentine tango. The recipe was re-used when he formed the band Hovedøen Social Club, creating authentic sounding cuban salsa out of Norwegian pop-music. The famous Munchner Rundfunk Orchestra and The Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra (KORK) recorded his «cubanized» arrangements of the great classics. When the recordings went viral on YouTube, Cuban national television bought the program and it’s regularly shown since then. The album hits #1 on Mexican World Music charts MixUp.

Suddenly the opportunity arose for Sverre and his fellow musicians to travel to Cuba and play “Clasicos a lo cubano” with the opera-orchestra in Havana. Sounds like fun, but problems arise and line up in a queue – much like what the Cubans themselves have to deal with. So they experiences some genuine Cuban frustration.

Challenges were everything from instruments breaking down or not existing, aircondition failing and rain pooring into the theatre, Even the legendary concert hall El Gran Teatro Alicia Alonso broke down! And of course, plenty of «latin timing» – aka the absence of punctuality.
But everything didn´t go wrong – thankfully! The joy of playing seen among the musicians was priceless. When members of the orchestra spontaneously stood up and danced during rehearsals the good vibes started. The swaying, the smiles and the joy were the payoff. Finally it was on the right track!

In all his enthusiasm, Joner took on the role of host during the concert – in Spanish – with a bit of humor to break the ice. What could go wrong? Quite a lot actually…It was a make it or break it.
Luckily they made it quite well, telling from the audience’s cheers and applause throughout the concert, and even the laughter, fortunately coming at the right places after the quirky comments between the music!

Joner´s hope for recognition in Cuba, the birthplace of the genres he had spent so much time and effort acquiring, was a significant driving-force behind the whole project. The musicians expressing heartfelt gratitude for being part of the project was the confirmation he had hoped for; that he, the «gringo», not only had cracked the Afro-cuban «claves-code” but also given a musical contribution that was highly appreciated.

” “…una excelente fusion entre la música clásica y el son cubano…”

Link to streaming services for the new album