Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo to play five shows on the East Coast in 2010

Latin Grammy-winning Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo has been granted a rare travel visa in order to perform five shows over the course of two weeks in the United States. She is the first Cuban artist to be allowed this privilege in the last six years.

Portuondo, an original member of the Buena Vista Social Club group, will give performances in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Miami. The tour follows her recent Grammy nomination for Gracias (World Village/Montuno), her 2008 recording which earned her a Latin Grammy in the same year. Pianist Roberto Fonseca will open for Portuondo throughout the tour, in support of his new album Akokan (Enja), which is scheduled for release in the U.S. early next year.

The travel visa was granted to Portuondo in order for her to perform the 2010 tour dates, as well as a small selection of performances on the West Coast this past fall. The visa also allowed her to attend the Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas on Nov. 5, where she won for Best Contemporary Tropical Album and also presented an award. Portuondo was the first current Cuban resident to receive an award on stage at the award show.

“Any time barriers can be broken through cultural exchanges is great for art,” Jim Walsh at Big Hassle Media said via email. “Music and jazz through its history has always been an important part of bridging cultural divides.”

Portuondo was the first Cuban artist in six years to be awarded a temporary travel visa, attributed to looser restrictions on travel between Cuba and the United States under the Barack Obama presidential administration.

“Omara…will draw fans of Latin and jazz music from all races. Her own solo career and her involvement with the Buena Vista Social Club have made her a huge following of fans here in the states,” Walsh said.

Born in Havana in 1930, the 79-year-old Portuondo started her career as a dancer, joining the dance company at the Cabaret Tropicana during her teen years. Soon after she launched a singing career, and has since worked with several groups as well as releasing a myriad of solo projects over her half-century-long career. Fellow Cuban Roberto Fonseca, born in Havana in 1975, has been recording as a solo artist since 1998, and has toured with Portuondo in the past.

Tickets for the New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami and Glendale performances can be purchased on Ticketmaster and range from $38.50 to $65 depending on the performance. Tickets for the Cambridge show can be purchased at The Harvard Box Office. Tickets for this venue range between $27 and $42.

Winter, 2010 Lineup

Feb. 23 at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, Pa.

Feb. 24 at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Feb. 26 at the Harvard University Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Mass.

Feb. 27 at the Town Hall in New York City

March 3 at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Cleason Theater in Miami