Despite its troubled political history, Cuba has generally enjoyed a warm relationship with international musicians. Over the years, a handful of artists in a variety of genres have traveled to the embargoed nation as cultural students and unofficial diplomatic representatives. For decades, the Cuban government placed a strict ban on rock music in the name of “ideological deviation,” but these restrictions are becoming more relaxed.
The Rolling Stones have taken advantage of the thawing relations by announcing a free show in Havana on March 25th — taking place less than a week after Barack and Michelle Obama’s arrival there — to conclude their Latin American tour. “We have performed in many special places during our long career but this show in Havana is going to be a landmark event for us,” the band said in a press release. They follow Diplo and Major Lazer, who played an open-air concert to a crowd of half a million Cubans on March 6th.
As Cuba’s iron curtain continues to fall, here is a brief history of musicians who have made the trip to perform or merely learn.