Sounds, Space and Socioeconomics: Changes in Cuban Music in Havana and London (2010 - 2022)

Snezhina Gulubova

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The study of Cuba’s rich musical legacy may be divided into three distinct periods: pre-1959 Revolution, post-1959, and the Special Period (following the collapse of the Soviet Union, 1990-). Characterised by shifts in government policies and its détente with the US post-2010, Cuba entered a new era of socio-economic transformation in the early 2010s, prompting a new phase in its music scholarship. Legalisation of private property ownership, the launch and growth of internet access, and substantial increase in travel from and to the island led to the introduction and proliferation of private music venues across Havana and the island’s entry into international flows of culture through digital platforms. Sounds, Space and Socioeconomics examines the role of Cuban musicians at the forefront of change during this new stage of “sociocapitalism,” and the restructuring of Havana’s music scenes, profession, and performance spaces. By scrutinising the relationship between place and sound, the project uncovers the friction between the romanticisation of the “the street” and the solar as the home of Cuban music versus the relocation of sound from public places and the periphery to the private bars of central Havana, altering the scene’s socio-spatial characteristics and creating valorisation of recorded music. Driven by the new entrepreneurial ideals, musicians seek to commercialise and internationalise their careers, looking deeper into their roots for authenticity, and becoming simultaneously more local and global. Building upon Cuba’s recent internationalisation, a second aspect of this study is its twin-city focus, examining the emerging Havana–London axis and documenting the formation and growth of a Cuban music scene in London, distinct from the broader Latin scene and from Cuban diasporic communities in other locations. The salsa dance industry has encouraged new connections between the two capitals while impeding the creation of Cuban dance music in the UK, leading some musicians to re-focus on other genres, most prominently fusion.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Baker, Geoff, Supervisor
  • Ramnarine, Tina K., Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • Ethnomusicology
  • Cuban Music
  • Havana
  • London
  • Cuban Dance Music
  • Hip-Hop
  • Urban Music
  • Afro-Cuban Music
  • Havana Music Scene
  • London Cuban Music Scene
  • Cuban Diaspora
  • Socioeconomics
  • Sound
  • Space
  • Contemporary Music Scene
  • Fabrica de Arte Cubano
  • Rap
  • Cuban Culture
  • Cuban Dance
  • Timba
  • Salsa

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