A man walks under a building during sunset in Havana, Cuba, June 10, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Representative Charles Rangel announced the first-ever annual Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival, an international visual and performing arts, fashion, education and culinary exchange celebrating the rich artistic connection between iconic cities Harlem in New York and Havana in Cuba.

The Festival will bring world-renowned Cuban musicians, visual artists, dancers, film, chefs and educators to the U.S. this summer as part of Harlem Week activities from August 15-21.

Plans for this unprecedented cultural exchange have been in development for over two years, with efforts led by Congressman Rangel and The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY 5) and the Cuban Deputy Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas.

“On behalf of the State of New York, I was pleased to have led a State trade mission to Cuba in April of 2015, the first by a sitting U. S. Governor. Our New York global initiative and our trade mission to Cuba are all about opening the door to new economic opportunities. Therefore, I am honored to have been asked by my friends, Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Gerald Meeks and The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce to co-chair ‘Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival’ which is our State’s first cultural and educational initiative with Cuba,” said Gov. Cuomo. “I have asked State agencies including: SUNY, I Love NY, Empire State Development Corporation and NY State Council on the Arts to partner with this exciting initiative,” he continued.

“I am elated that in my final year in Congress, I can finally see that the goal to remove the barriers between the U.S and Cuba is going to be achieved. It’s been a long road but I and key members of the Congressional Black Caucus were dedicated to officially opening the doors to the Cuban people. The Festival kick off in New York is a wonderful start to this new relationship,” Rangel said.

"As Co-Chairman of the House of Representatives Organization of American States Caucus, I am particularly pleased to serve in a lead role, with my esteemed colleague Hon. Charles B. Rangel, supporting the Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival,” Meeks said. “On behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus I will proudly lead the New York delegation to Havana in February 2017."

Among the selected artists are César López, who is considered one of the most important saxophone players in Latin Jazz and leads Habana Ensemble, a super group featuring some of Cuba’s top musicians. Also selected is Jorge Luis Pacheco, one of the leading pianists of the new generation of jazz in Cuba. In 2015, Vanity Fair noted him among “sensational, young jazz players.” Contemporary artist, Edward Roca Salazar, also known as Choco, deemed by the New York Times as one of Cuba’s “most distinguished printmakers,” will also participate. He is considered a master of “collography.”

"Havana was a Wonderful Life Experience for me. I hope this relationship with HARLEM/HAVANA opens up to the point of free travel between Cuba and the United States. I look forward to returning to Havana," said Smokey Robinson, multi-Grammy Award winner, singer and songwriter.

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