AFP

NEW YORK

Major Lazer, one of the most popular acts in electronic music, will perform in Cuba as part of a rare US-linked festival as relations thaw between the Cold War adversaries. The group, whose ‘Lean On’ is the most popular song ever on streaming service Spotify, will play March 6 on the Havana waterfront to kick off the Musicabana festival of more than 25 artists.

The Musicabana Foundation, which promotes joint US-Cuban cultural activities and organized the events announced on Tuesday, said the concerts would be free for Cubans, with foreigners encouraged to buy tickets and travel to the island. Performers at the festival will include classic artists of the nueva trova movement of Cuban roots music, 72-year-old Pablo Milanes and 52-year-old Carlos Varela, and Ibeyi, the Afro-Cuban R&B duo of Paris-born twin sisters.

Major Lazer’s main member Diplo, a producer who has recently worked with Madonna and Justin Bieber, said in a statement that he wanted to perform in Havana in part because of Cuba’s ‘powerful cultural impact all over the world.’

Diplo said he developed an appreciation for Cuban culture by growing up in Miami and visiting the island several years ago with the Puerto Rican group Calle 13. ‘During my four days there, my mind was blown by the people, depth of culture and their way of life,’ he said. Linkages between the United States and Cuba have rapidly grown since December 2014, when Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro agreed to restore relations after a half-century of hostility.

The thaw has opened new opportunities for US fans and the recording industry to work in Cuba, renowned for its rich musical heritage. US artists who have already headed to Cuba since the improvement of ties include light jazz saxophonist Kenny G, bearded hard rockers ZZ Top and Dead Daisies, the metal supergroup with members of Guns N’ Roses and other bands. While the US Congress has not lifted the strict embargo on the communist island, US law allows exemptions for citizens to visit for cultural exchanges.