The Rolling Stones will be the headline act in Cuba later this month, but U.S. electronic music group Major Lazer got the party started on Sunday afternoon with a free concert for tens of thousands of Cubans gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
The concert, the first performed by a major U.S. artist in Cuba during the new era of diplomatic relations, is part of a cultural exchange that includes collaboration between Major Lazer and young, up-and-coming Cuban DJs who joined the U.S. artist on stage.
“For as long as I can remember, Cuba has played an influential role on my love of music—Cuba has such a powerful cultural impact all over the world and for me, especially growing up in Florida, it became one of the biggest cultural centers for music to evolve from,” says Major Lazer creator Diplo, who’s international smash hit “Lean On” is Spotify’s most-streamed song of all time with more than 616 million plays to date .
“I was lucky enough to visit Cuba a few years back with my friends Calle 13 and during my four days there my mind was blown by the people, depth of culture and their way of life,” he added.
Major Lazer becomes the second U.S. musical act to play Cuba since 1962. The first band was Audioslave, which performed on the island in May, 2005.
Sunday’s free concert kicks-off an action-packed month in U.S.-Cuba relations, which will culminate on March 21 when President Obama becomes the first U.S president to visit the island in nearly a century.
Correction: an earlier version of this story failed to mention that Audioslave performed on Cuba in 2005.