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Melissa Etheridge plans a Cuban trip with a musical theme

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In an undated handout photo, Melissa Etheridge. The singer-songwriter will be in Havana in June for a fan camp that include concerts and workshops. She also plans to connect with the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.


Cuba has intrigued singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, 55, since her childhood days in Leavenworth, Kansas. “There was such an air of mystery around the country, and I always knew of it as the place that Americans weren’t allowed to visit,” she said. With Cuba now open as a destination for U.S. residents, Etheridge has been taken with the idea of visiting the country. 

This summer she heads to Havana for a four-day fan camp, from June 22 to 26, in collaboration with the event producer Music & Arts Live. Etheridge will perform concerts with local musicians, lead workshops on music, visit schools and connect with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. (She is a lesbian.) The price of the camp, including accommodations and sightseeing tours, begins at $3,300 a person, and musicians Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright will host similar fan camps in May and September, respectively.  

Following are edited excerpts from an interview with Etheridge:  

Q: How did your collaboration with Music & Arts Live happen?  

A: I had never worked with them before, but they reached out to me and asked me to come to Cuba to do some concerts as a part of a four-day trip that people could buy and also mentioned that they wanted me to connect with the country’s LGBT community. Given my long interest in Cuba, I jumped at the opportunity.  

Q: What will the lineup for the four days include?

A: There will be one large concert at Teatro Nacional (the National Theater of Cuba) and another smaller concert at the cultural center Fabrica de Arte. I’ll also be teaching music workshops and visiting schools — my band and I are taking lots of instruments down there, including guitars, drums, basses and strings, and leaving them at these schools so young Cuban children have a chance to nurture their interest in music. And I’ll be meeting with LGBT Cubans. 

Q: Do you have a sense of what Cuba’s LGBT community is like? 

A: Apparently, there is a strong LGBT presence in Cuba as there is in so many parts of the world, but I imagine that this community may be struggling to be accepted. When I meet with people who are part of this community, I’ll answer any questions they have and also encourage them to be comfortable in their own skin.  

Q: During your concerts well-known Cuban musicians will join you onstage. Can you tell us more about your plans to perform together?  

A: These singers — Canelas, Haydée Milanés, William Vivanco and Obini Bata — are exceptionally talented, and I want to sing some of their Cuban songs with them but in English since I don’t know Spanish. Also, I want them to sing some of my songs with me like “I’m the Only One” and “Bring Me Some Water.”  

Q: Is anything on your wish list to do or see in Havana during your free time?  

A: I want to meet as many locals as possible and hit lots of clubs at night to listen to the vibrant local music. And I’m looking forward to the food, especially plantains, rice and beans, and Cuban-style fish. I wish I had extra days to explore the country more, but I have concerts scheduled right after.  

Q: When you’re not traveling for work, where do you like to vacation?  

A: I tour most of the year so my vacation spot is home in Los Angeles. I sleep in, do puzzles and love gardening. My next vacation will likely be this summer when my family takes over my tour bus for a few weeks. I have four kids — a girl, Bailey, 20, a boy, Beckett, 18, and 10-year-old twins, a boy, Miller, and a girl, Johnnie Rose — and our plan is to drive around the Northeast and eventually end up in Michigan.

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Tags: Melissa Etheridge

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