Concerts of habaneras with Cremat in Tossa de Mar
Habaneres have, how their name already says, their origin in Cuba from where they have been imported in the Costa Brava in the 19th century by Catalan sailors and emigrants who came back home.
In Havana, the capital of Cuba the first Habaneras appeared possibly about 1825 and were called "Danzas Habaneras" They most probably are also the precursors of the tango. Already in 1842 the first habanera, "El amor en el baile" was published as a score.
However, the probably world-wide most famous habanera with the typical Caribbean rhythm became some years later "La Paloma", which the first composer of habaneres, Sebastián Iradier wrote in 1855. This song opened this music style to the whole world. Almost as well known became "El arreglito" which Georges Bizet transformed into the aria "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" when he wrote Carmen.
However, most habaneras were only orally transmitted what led to the fact that numerous Habaneres (or Habaneras, in Castilian) exist in different versions.
In the Costa Brava the songs were mainly sung in Tavernes in long winter nights. The older inhabitants of almost every village do still remember this time before the tourist invasion of the Catalan coast brought the end to this tradition.
Up to 1966 habaneres could only be heard in bars and taverns when fishermen and sailors spontaneously took their guitar and the accordion to interpret "their songs". This changed when the amics dels habaneres" in Calella de Palafrugell in 1967 organized the first public Cantada on the beach and which continued afterwards annually. This event is today known all over Europe. At the concerts several thousand guests occupy the beach to listen to the habaneras.
Only in Catalonia there are today more than 100 groups which interpret habaneres and present their songs in summertime on the beaches of the Catalan coast. To the most famous groups belong Peix Fregit de Palafrugell, Els Cremats de Palafrugell, Els Pescadors de la Escala, Alba de la Bisbal, Cavall Bernat de Platja d'Aro and Barrentina de Malgrat.
The Catalan singer Marina Rossell has also dedicated her 15th record completely to the habaneres and interprets on her CD some of the most famous songs in this music style, so Rosina, Mi madre fue una mulata, La bella Lola, La paloma, El meu avi, Guarda esa flor or Llop de mar, to name only some of the titles.
Also Tossa looks back at a long history of habaneres even if the recitals of these traditional songs now have been replaced by Flamenco in the bars and taverns. However, every year in the beginning of the summer Tossa invites on the Platja Gran, to a concert of habaneras. This beach is better know as Playa Grande among the foreign guests of the town.
Generally these events are more visited by the Catalan population as by tourists who probably think that the name habanera corresponds to folk music and not to a music style which has its roots in Cuba. Some of the songs are so popular that the listeners of the concert accompany the habaneres.
Tossa de Mar renounces during this event not either to another tradition which is associated to habaneras everywhere in Catalonia. During the break the listeners may taste the Cremat a beverage flambé which unites rum, coffee, lemon peel and some other components.