Rastas in Cuba
Reggae finds its groove in Cuba 5/31/2015 Jamaica Observer: "Many travel
experts expect the entertainment and lifestyle scenes there to explode once the
US normalises relations with the Communist country. That could be this year.
Jamaica is Cuba's closest neighbour, so it seems inevitable will have a presence
there. From May 18-22, the exhibition, 'Bob Marley Time Will Tell', took place
at Casa De Las Americas, in Havana, Cuba's capital."
Los Rastafaris en Cuba 3/31/2015 Negro in Black: " El movimiento Rastafari en Cuba tomo forma hace 30 o 40 años aproximadamente. Se rigen por una forma de pensar muy propia junto con otros sentimientos históricos, heredados desde África a través de la emigración jamaicana. Una interesante propuesta que toca un tema desconocido de Cuba."
Bob Marley at 70: legend and legacy 2/6/2015 Cuba Now: "The conversations we had in those days, some of which I taped, were freighted with a heavy subtext, immediate in a way I could scarcely have understood. Once he said: “Jamaica is a funny place, mon. People love you so much, dem want to kill you.” I took it to be an exaggeration. In the studio, he looked anxious while recording one of his sunniest songs, Smile Jamaica. He told me: “Jamaicans have to smile. People are too vex.” Late at night, he strummed a guitar in the yard at Hope Road, composing the words that would appear on Guiltiness, about big fish who always try to eat up small fish. Ruthless, self-interested predators who would, Bob predicted, “do anything, to materialise their every wish”. Sure enough, the day after I left Hope Road for London, four politically motivated gunmen broke into the Hope Road haven, shooting Bob, his wife Rita and manager Don Taylor, and escaped. Bob and the Wailers went into exile for a year and a half."
Ras Ariel, AfroCuban Artist 8/20/2014 Saravá y Aché: in the Rastafari tradition
Rastafaris en Cuba. La verdad escamoteada 6/18/2014 Plataforma: "Uno de los grupos sociales más golpeados por esta espiral de estigma, represión y menosprecio son los miembros del movimiento Rastafari. Las calles de La Habana son permanente escenario de esta escalada de represión y desconocimiento de la dignidad humana y la libre opción cultural. Los libros recientemente publicados se constituyen en una especie de fundamentación intelectual del estigma y la satanización que por mucho tiempo han sufrido los Rasta en Cuba."
danay esta es para ti 4/12/2014 Youtube
Por la cultura rastafari 5/27/2013 Palamúsica Underground: "Mientras Carlos “Melo”, Sandor y Yamilé cantaban en el escenario, un hombre batía en alto la bandera del Panafricanismo, movimiento político filosófico y social que promueve el hermanamiento africano y la defensa de los derechos de las personas de raza negra."
¿De lo Sagrado a lo Profano? El Yo Rasta en Cuba 3/9/2013 Monografias
El Rastafarismo. Frontera con el Derecho Penal 3/9/2013 Monografias
Concierto 'Violencia Cero' en La Habana 3/5/2013 Diario de Cuba: "El concierto fue organizado por Nuevo País y otras plataformas de la sociedad civil, como el Comité Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial (CIR) y el Partido Liberal Nacional Cubano, entre otros."
Rastafarianism in Havana 3/2/2013 1804 Carib Voices: "One of the books presented this year at the Havana’s International Book Fair was Marialina García Ramos’ fascinating study of Rastafarianism in Cuba—Rastafarismo en La Habana: De las reivindicaciones míticas de las tribus urbanas [Rastafarianism in Havana: Of the mythical vindications of urban tribes]—published in 2012 by Pinos Nuevos. The book was presented by historian Graciela Chailloux Laffita."
Historiadora propone otra mirada sobre el fenómeno rastafari en Cuba 2/25/2013 Diario de Cuba: "García Ramos dijo que quiere con su libro dar visibilidad a temas poco abordados por los estudioso, la cuestión racial y clasista, la marginalidad y la religión. Agrego que el asunto tiene escaso tratamiento en los medios de comunicación de la Isla y las políticas culturales institucionales."
Bob Marley and Cubans 2/12/2013 Havana Times: "Here though, in contrast to the rest of the world, most Cubans don’t understand the English words in Marley’s songs. His messages about God, about being proud of one’s blackness and the need for us to become better humans don’t reach them. Therefore, it’s unfortunate that true Rastafarians are commonly seen in Cuba as shady characters intent on subverting the social order. It’s a shame they’re viewed as thieves or bums – often due to racial prejudice. There’s also a general association between them and marijuana. They’re considered capable of any atrocity, when in reality their connection with “Jah” (God) individually requires them to be better parents, children, siblings, partners and neighbors."
Rastafarismo en Cuba 12/15/2012 AHS: "Reconocida con el Premio de la Colección Pinos Nuevos 2012 en la categoría de Ensayo de Ciencias Sociales, De las reivindicaciones míticas a las Tribus Urbanas: Rastafarismo en La Habana es el título de la investigación realizada por la licenciada en Historia del Arte y máster en Antropología Sociocultural Marialina García Ramos sobre el Rastafarismo en nuestro país. A propósito del reconocimiento a su labor investigativa, sostuvimos el siguiente diálogo."
Life in Cuba for a Rastafarian Woman 9/20/2012 Havana Times: "I got to know Wollette Tsehay Gabriel Tafari (Marbys Guzmán Palomo) in 2010. We were trying to sign up on a diploma course on Humanism and Society being given at the San Juan de Letrand Convent. I was accepted but she was refused despite having a degree in Physical Education and being only two months away from graduating in Anthropology at the University of London."
Premios para una investigadores cubanos afrodescendientes 7/18/2012 Negra Cubana: "La Fundación Fernando Ortiz invita entregó recientemente el Premio Catauro Cubano al Dr. Samuel Furé Davis por su libro La cultura Rastafari en Cuba, publicado por la Editorial Oriente de Santiago de Cuba, 2011; y la Beca Fernando Ortiz le fue otorgada a la Lic.Oilda Hevia Lanier por su proyecto de investigación Los caminos que conducen a la libertad (1750-1860). Ambos investigadrores son reconocidos también por su activismo antiracista. Felicitaciones Oilda, lo mismo para ti Samuel!"
El Movimiento Rastafari en Cuba 4/24/2012 Religión en Revolución: "La cruzada política contra el movimiento rastafari cubano tendrá este viernes 13 de abril un clímax, cuando el líder de la banda de reggae Herencia, Héctor Riscart Mustelier (El Ñaño), sacerdote Bobo Shanti de 40 años, sea llevado a juicio por el delito de "producción, venta, demanda, tráfico, distribución y tenencia ilícitos de drogas, estupefacientes, sustancias sicotrópicas y otras de efectos similares"."
Rastafari cubano denuncia represion en Cuba 3/24/2012 Fotos desde Cuba: "RASTAFARIS EN CUBA, DECLARAN A ESTE BLOG EL HOSTIGAMIENTO QUE ESTAN PASANDO SUS INTEGRANTES POR EL GOBIERNO CUBANO."
Tribute to Bob Marley in Havana 2/17/2012 Cuba Headlines: "The Cuban folk singer Daisy Brau led a chorus of chants and prayers plow-based sound of soul and jazz, coming to the Caribbean, Brazil and the southern United States from Benin (West Coast of Africa)."
I am a Cuban Rastafarian, What of It...! 11/25/2011 Cuba Now: "Interview with Cuban researcher Samuel Furé Davis about his book La Cultura Rastafari en Cuba."
Arte cimarrón en la Casa del Caribe 10/20/2011 Casa del Caribe: "Este 20 de octubre, con motivo de la celebración del Día de la Cultura Cubana fue inaugurada en la Casa del Caribe la exposición titulada Tributo a un cimarrón del artista de la plástica y poeta Lázaro de la Rosa, miembro de la hermandad rastafari de Santiago de Cuba."
Arte cimarrón en la Casa del Caribe 10/20/2011 Casa del Caribe: "Este 20 de octubre, con motivo de la celebración del Día de la Cultura Cubana fue inaugurada en la Casa del Caribe la exposición titulada Tributo a un cimarrón del artista de la plástica y poeta Lázaro de la Rosa, miembro de la hermandad rastafari de Santiago de Cuba. Tan sugerente título no surge como obra de la casualidad, según palabras del artista, es un homenaje a su bisabuelo Ciriaco que fue cimarrón y a quien agradece mucho. El concepto de la vida de Lázaro va más allá de ser un rastafari, luego de venir de su Habana natal, ha comentado que él mismo se convierte en un cimarrón. Esta, su primera muestra, consta de unas 15 piezas que son instalaciones y pinturas, trabajadas todas con recursos naturales a partir del reciclaje que hace el artista de disímiles materiales de desecho. El tema que ocupa el centro de su obra, tanto poética como plástica son las reflexiones."
Lyrical Subversion in Cuban Reggae 8/20/2011 Image & Narrative: Published in May, 2005 - "When several specialists express conservative opinions in using the term “Cuban reggae” as a solid genre, this essay is conceived as an approach to the social processes that catalyze the consolidation of a musical style --reggae-- in a given space – Cuba. My main argument is to emphasize that reggae was born in Cuba under the same conditions of marginalization and subordination that still today make it a lyrically subversive cultural tendency. It is necessary to note, however, that there is more than one type of reggae. I mainly focus on what is more universally identified as “roots” reggae without disregarding the interesting fusions of the Spanish Caribbean influences with Cuba's musical mainstream, which gave way to the so called reggaetón style. In characterizing “subversion” in a thematic analysis, the paper is based on a more cultural meaning in the mere political connotation of this word."
Imported Topics, Foreign Vocabularies: Dread Talk, the Cuban Connection: Dread Talk, the Cuban Connection 8/20/2011 MUSE: Published March, 2006 - "Velma Pollard and Samuel Fure Davis - The speech associated with Rastafari, labeled variously "I-ance," "I-yaric," "Rasta Talk," and "Dread Talk" (DT), is one of a small number of codes created to serve the specific ends of a particular group. Other such codes, however, have not spread beyond the narrow confines of their constituencies. Today the language of Rastafari has spread not only beyond that group to the wider Jamaican society but also beyond Jamaica to the international community. Music has been crucial in the spread of the philosophy of Rastafari even within Jamaica, moving it from the depressed areas where it began, to the living rooms of the privileged. The uptown following of Rasta of the sixties and seventies was partly the response of the young men in those homes to the lyrics of songs they were able to listen to over and over in their own space. Ironically this led them ultimately to a rejection of that space. Pollard describes the transformations performed on the words of Rastafari as they interacted with the popular languages of St. Lucia and Barbados following the spread of "the word" to those islands."
Festival de la Cultura Rastafari en Cuba 5/6/2011 Fotos desde Cuba
RiseUp Movie Official Trailer 10/9/2010 YouTube: "RiseUp!! This documentary is unlike any documentary about Jamaica as it takes theviewer off the beaten path far from any tourist attractions and sandy beaches yet still able to capture the beauty and magic that the Irie has to offer. From the deep countryside to the whirlwind ghettos of Kingston, no matter where you are, the film makes it evident that reggae music is the heartbeat of the culture."
Rastafarianism in Cuba 7/30/2010 Havana Times: "In the 1990s there was an avalanche of Rastafaris in Havana, the great majority motivated by tourists interested in these types of exotic individuals. It became stylish. Many of them had pretty, well-formed and orderly dreadlocks, accompanied by “jineteriles” (hustler/gigolo) clothes with Rasta symbols. Among them, a certain percentage of these lovers of reggae music came from the east of the country – but without roots; they are called “phony Rastas” or “tourist hunters” by some. It’s certain that many were involved in half-truths. Yet among them there exist those who began on that path for the most superficial reasons but have turned into studious and fervent followers of the movement."
Rastafaris de la Habana 3/16/2010 Momentos
If you want to be the first, you must suffer. 11/13/2009 The ARC: "Ariel Diaz Garcia, have you heard of him? If not, keep him in mind because someday he will be a household name. So who is this Ariel Diaz Garcia anyways? Positive, Lovable, Cuban, Rasta, are just a few of the many words needed to describe Ariel. Deep and full of energy, Ariel is a force to be reckoned with in the world of Art."
Surgimiento y desarrollo de los rastafari en la Cuba socialista 5/18/2005 La Ventana: "Los rastafari son un fenómeno relativamente joven en Cuba. El movimiento ingresó en la isla por vez primera hacia fines del decenio 1970-1979 y ha seguido haciéndolo a través de distintos agentes. La mayoría de los cubanos que se identifican con el movimiento, de un modo u otro, supieron de su existencia escuchando la música reggae. El reggae, que hasta el día de hoy ocupa muy poco tiempo de transmisión en las estaciones de radio cubanas, fue llevado a la isla por marineros y estudiantes, sobre todo caribeños y africanos, a fines de ese decenio. Después, escuchar y grabar las transmisiones de estaciones radiales de Jamaica y la Florida fue la vía principal para acceder al nuevo ritmo. Puesto que hasta la década de 1980-1989 las grabadoras personales no abundaban, las primeras grabaciones fueron hechas por un grupito de entusiastas esforzados, y luego escuchadas en fiestas semanales de reggae organizadas en casas particulares, mayormente en barrios urbanos. Fue así que el ritmo empezó a circular, que se captó a nuevos entusiastas y se estableció un nuevo circuito musical alternativo."
Cuban Rastas gather surreptitiously 8/13/2004 Dallas Morning News: "A great many Rastas are in jail," said Eligio Flores Ruíz, 32. "The government doesn't accept us. They say we're a threat to the revolution. They're bothered by the fact that we're free thinkers." Government supporters deny that and say what bothers them is that Rastas break the law – they smoke marijuana."
Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Cuba 7/6/2004 AfroCubaWeb: "Marcus Garvey died in 1940. The ideas of Marcus Mosiah Garvey were of great interest to the later to be formed Rasta movement in Jamaica, therefore he was a predecessor to the Rastas. The Rasta movement has a significant presence in present day Cuba, thanks to the work done and examples set forth by Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley, who is adored by a cross section of the Cuban youth and people."
Luciano's Serious Times tour kicks off in Cuba Jamaican Observer Reporter 6/1/2004 CubaNow: Roots and culture Reggae 'Messenjah', Luciano, accompanied by saxophonist, Dean Fraser and singer Mikey General, returned from Cuba after three appearances on the weeklong Cubadisco Festival and Exhibition which ran from Sunday May 23 at Cuba's National Exhibition Hall.
Cuba's Rastas: the religious, the philosophical and those making a fashion statement 4/11/2004 Jamaica Observer: "Long dreadlocks stuffed into trademark red, black, green and yellow tams (knitted caps), which sometimes carry a symbol of an Afro-Cuban religion or even a US flag, Bob Marley t-shirts and camouflage pants - that is the typical look of Cuba's young Rastafarians, a growing urban presence. The Rastas of this socialist island nation are mainly found in Havana and tend to be young Afro-Cuban men from poor neighbourhoods, who seem to carry Reggae music in their blood. "People don't look on us kindly," Yosvany Reyes, a 27-year-old craftsman, told IPS. "In Cuba, people don't know very much about what being a Rastafarian means. They generally think we're dirty drug addicts or bums who just wander around the streets not doing anything." "
Cuba's Rastas: the religious, the philosophical and those making a fashion statement 4/11/2004 Jamaican Observer: "Long dreadlocks stuffed into trademark red, black, green and yellow tams (knitted caps), which sometimes carry a symbol of an Afro-Cuban religion or even a US flag, Bob Marley t-shirts and camouflage pants - that is the typical look of Cuba's young Rastafarians, a growing urban presence. The Rastas of this socialist island nation are mainly found in Havana and tend to be young Afro-Cuban men from poor neighbourhoods, who seem to carry Reggae music in their blood. "People don't look on us kindly," Yosvany Reyes, a 27-year-old craftsman, told IPS. "In Cuba, people don't know very much about what being a Rastafarian means. They generally think we're dirty drug addicts or bums who just wander around the streets not doing anything." "They think we're like rock 'n' rollers or rappers, people who just have a different look or have adopted different cultural codes. But being a Rastafarian is a way of thinking, a philosophy, another way of looking at life," he said… "It's true that evil can be found in many people. There are young people who adopt the Rastafarian symbols as a way to make a living. They know that young black men who look like us are a great attraction for the tourists," he said. Reyes complained that these "false" Rastafarians, who he said are often involved in prostitution and drug - including cocaine - rackets, are responsible for society's distorted image of the movement."
3 J'cans among 17 jailed in Cuba for drugs 6/3/2003 AP: "Cuban authorities yesterday announced they had broken up a Jamaica-based drug trafficking ring and had convicted and sentenced 17 people to prison terms ranging from five years to life behind bars."
Jóvenes cubanos piden legalización de la marihuana 2/17/2003 CubaNet: "Numerosos jóvenes cubanos, que asistían a la clausura del festival de reggae en el anfiteatro del parque Almendares expresaron abiertamente su deseo de legalizar la marihuana el jueves 6 de febrero. La mayor parte del público presente se identifica con el movimiento conocido como "Rastafari", que en la música se ha caracterizado por tratar el racismo, la marginalidad, el abuso de poder, y ha definido desde sus comienzos una importancia sustancial a la prohibida planta, cuyo consumo se considera un elemento identificador del mismo también en Cuba. El público coreaba las canciones alusivas al tema, que interpretaron grupos como Manana Reggae con Debbie Young (artista Jamaicana), Insurrecto, Anónimo Consejo, algunos integrantes de Candy Man, entre otros músicos cubanos y extranjeros."
Rasta growing in Cuba 6/2/2002 Newsday: "Reggae concerts are increasingly common here, the most visible sign that Rastafarianism, the religion formed in Jamaican slums in the 1930s, is attracting a wave of black followers in atheist Cuba. For some Afro-Cubans, Rastafarianism is a means of individual expression in a society that places a premium on conformity. For others, growing dreadlocks and smoking or selling marijuana is a way to attract the attention of dollar-toting tourists. For most, the movement offers spiritual comfort during an economic crisis that has disproportionately hurt Afro-Cubans, the country's poorest people. "There is a lot of racial discrimination here. Rastafarianism is a way to create a black identity and build a message of unity," dreadlocked Elijio Flores said."
IN CUBA, FORGING A BLACK IDENTITY 5/19/2002 Newsday: "It felt like Kingston or Montego Bay, but the concert took place this month on the outskirts of Havana and was attended by local Afro-Cubans, not rum-sipping tourists. Reggae concerts are increasingly common here, the most visible sign that Rastafarianism, the religion formed in Jamaican slums in the 1930s, is attracting a wave of black followers in officially atheist Cuba."
Rasta, race and revolution: transnational connections in socialist Cuba. 10/1/2001 Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol 27, #4: "Abstract - Within the past three decades the Jamaican Rastafari movement has been transformed from a local Caribbean to a global cultural phenomenon. Reggae music and other popular cultural media have been the primary catalysts in this international spread of the movement. As a result, Rastafari has lost its original territorial moorings and become a travelling culture. Global in scope, Rastafari has nevertheless been localised in very different ways, depending on where the movement has been appropriated. This article examines the processes involved in the transnational journey of the movement's ideas, images and music and the multiple mechanisms involved in its indigenisation with specific reference to Rastafari's emergence and development in Cuba. In particular it looks at how the movement has entered the island, why and by whom it has been taken on, and how it manifests itself locally. KEYWORDS: TRANSNATIONAL CULTURAL FLOWS; RASTAFARI; CUBA Since its inception in the 1930s, the Jamaican Rastafari movement has gained a widespread local and international following. (1) Not only is it now recognised as one of the leading Afro-Caribbean religions but also as one of the most popular cultural trends in the world. Today Rastafari communities and dreadlocked inspired youth can be found throughout the Caribbean, in parts of Central America and Brazil, North America and Europe, and in much of Africa as well as among the Maoris in New Zealand, some Native American groups in the USA and many Japanese youth. Unlike many other transnational religions and global social movements such as Islam, Catholicism, environmentalism and feminism, which have predominantly been spread in a consciously organised fashion and through the actual physical participation and movement of people, this has not been the case with Rastafari. Instead the movement has been diffused in very unguided and haphazard ways through the medium of culture, particularly music, mediated via technology and consumer capitalism. Sounds and images rather than people have spread Rastafari's message; cassettes, CDs, T-shirts and posters, rather than proselytisation campaigns, organised rallies, conferences and public relations stunts, have acted as the movement's international couriers. Through this process of internationalisation, Rastafari has lost its original territorial moorings and become a travelling culture (Clifford 1992)." [the rest is for sale]
|By Alberto Faya Montano Cubarte
Cubanow.- It might seem that a new fad is filling our ears and taking hold -like all trends- of a good part of our minds and wills and, of course, with many opinions in favor and against.
The long existence of “trends” and their aims of satisfying circumstantial -and sometimes unimportant- human needs can confuse us and might make us consider without due care that which requires a critical and sensible examination.
In a country such as Cuba, where music plays such an important role in the lives of its people, a “new musical trend” (which, if we look at it closely is not so new) gets us into arguments and makes us reason some truths along with some misconceptions.
Now we're arguing about the phenomenon called reggaeton (in Spanish: regueton) which has made its way into our country in the same fashion many expressions of our popular music have done: from east to west.
To begin to attempt a definition, we would have to place it in the Caribbean region and then make a series of reasonings in which we must include a main feature: the Caribbean has always been a region of intense cultural exchanges which have caused different transcultural processes in each of the countries that form the basin washed by the waters on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The history of calypso, socca, son, rumba, merengue, plena and bomba -just to mention some of our musical expressions- are good examples of not only musical but also general cultural influences have interacted.
Not even jazz escapes those processes because in the cities in the south of the United States -like New Orleans- it has fueled on what was coming from Meridional countries.
We would also have to keep in mind similar historical processes in the formation of the different cultures found today in the Caribbean Basin. The African Diaspora and its blend with European elements contributed by the conquerors, was just the beginning of the action of that ajiaco –a term we now take from a distinctive stew in Cuban culinary culture to apply it to general culture such as the sage Don Fernando Ortiz did when he defined what was Cuban.
A great number of influences from all around the world, reaching the Caribbean at different periods, have added themselves to the “stew” and today this increases with the possibilities offered us by the media, including Internet.
Even James Farber -a US reporter from the New York Daily News, who probably got excited over this- has called reggaeton “a cultural polyglot”.
Other equally important elements have made daily contributions to the proliferation of fads and modalities found in reggaeton; among them, we must stress the high marketing level music has today in the contemporary world.
It's not by chance that Miami’s Music Czar Emilio Estefan has shown so much interest in the work of Puerto Rican reggaeton musician Don Omar, or the fact that Sony Music has dedicated space in its productions to members of the reggaeton family, like Buddha’s Family, Mickey Perfecto or Noztra, or that Universal -another great music producer and distributor- has also become interested in that Caribbean phenomenon.
You have to sell recordings and that's done where marketing points to. In the contemporary world, trade is centralized in urban zones, which are their basic sources of income because most of the circulation of merchandise takes place there and the buyers are the great number of people who live there.
If we take into consideration that a good amount of that public is formed by people with low incomes whose culture is formed in the group of values determined by their belonging to a basically dispossessed and politically dominated social class, we can have an idea of the kind of artistic product they can buy.
In general terms, the young people who belong to those classes and social groups buy cultural products that have to do with their own life, in which city violence, crime, social and racial discrimination as well as the exacerbation of certain sexual ideas are their daily food. The lyrics of reggaeton are fueled on those values and that's a sure source of consumption -and of course, of profits.
The magnification of certain social and moral features found in the songs doesn’t seem to matter too much to the sellers of that culture, as long as its promotion means a sure flow of money in their pockets. We receive that inheritance from the world masters regarding profits and losses: US dealers.
For the big music promoters in the US -such as Dick Clark with his American Bandstand show, who since the 1960s has made thousands of dollars a year- the quality of the message found in the music and the song is not the main problem. He admitted in an interview: “I don't make culture, I sell it.”
The realities of many Caribbean countries offer favorable environments for the increase in reggaeton sales.
The phenomenon apparently started in Panama when El General sold a huge number of discs, and later in Puerto Rico the process continued with the appearance of Vico C, whose messages were full of sexism and certain urban violence. This movement, that goes back to the 1980s and early 90s, immediately reflected a way of understanding life governed by the interests of the sellers who promoted it.
The realities of the poorest sectors in the cities found a simplified and schematically manipulated version in the lyrics of those who played reggaeton and even in the way they danced -like the so-called “perreo” (perro is dog) which imitates the movements dogs make during the sexual act.
In the case of Cuba, the phenomenon takes on very peculiar characteristics because, even though the economic reality isn't the same as that of its Caribbean neighbors, the crisis caused by the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and dramatically depicted during the 1990s, the increase of the US blockade top take advantage of those circumstances, and the problems common to the construction and sustenance of an equalitarian society in a poor country, created economical situations which had their consequences in the ethical and social stratums based on the establishment of financial differences among citizens -which had not been experienced by Cubans in the three previous decades.
To all that, some feelings were added, caused by the remnants of social discrimination still found in spite of the efforts made to eliminate them in the economic, political, and cultural fields.
As a result of all those circumstances, to which we should add the presence of a “reggaeton culture” in the Caribbean region, the phenomenon started to grow in the 90s, especially in the eastern provinces where the nearness of the Caribbean is much stronger.
However, if we pay attention to our own cultural history, we would also find that in the music considered by some scholars as “Cuban folklore,” there have always been expressions very close to the way reggaeton musicians approach their songs -or whatever these may be called. They're not lyrics that stay close to a melodic line but they do adjust to certain musical metrics and adapt to the rhythm of the work in point.
They're lyrics with music that we find in certain Congo prayers or in the Abakua enkames and even in certain ways of approaching the rumba.
In addition, my great friend and a true scholar of Cuban music, Gregorio Hernandez -El Goyo- tells me that in reggaeton’s rhythmic scheme not only are there elements of the Puerto Rican plena but also of yambu -one of the oldest rumberas in our country- and even in some beats of our wonderful bata drums.
An important role is played by the oral transmission of music, which is the way many reggaeton musicians receive each other (and, sometimes, endure each other) when we simply walk along the streets or go to some public place for food or drinks.
African heritage has been completely present in the expressions of orality dealing both with religious and profane matters. We would just have to pay attention to the shouts of those ambling troubadours who, for years and years, have been the keepers of the history of entire peoples, in addition to offering advice, remarking on the situation and moving the ideas of those who listen to them.
The culture of Guinea, Gambia, and Mali –just to mention some northern and western African countries- is today still full of those expressions. Oral poetry is very common among Africans as well as its link to music. Not only does it depend on its interior cadence but also on the way in which it is regularly expressed before the public.
This orality is a legacy treasured by Caribbean peoples and incorporated to the region's contemporary cultures. In what today we sing and enjoy, in what we hear, we find the echoes that support reggaeton musicians today.
I now remember how a well known 1960’s actor, Harry Lewis, sang to “pangola grass,” the extensive planting of which was then promoted so that we could reach a high level of fodder. Harry self-defined himself as the “precursor” of rap in Cuba and I think he could also be included among the reggaeton musicians in history, although he never achieved the place that the great market reserves for its chosen ones.
The truth is that orality is one of the ways Africans and their descendants availed themselves when they came to our lands to keep a culture that is still flourishing. Even African languages are musical; therefore, in the notes of the drums that virtuoso musicians make from the hides, words and even phrases can slip through making the drums “talk.”
Finally, reggaeton also has a very worthy source in the most recent Caribbean culture. I would call your attention to the “dub” poetry movement.
This cultural phenomenon has Linton Kwesi Jonson among its most prominent cultivators -a Jamaican who first developed his poetic work in London surrounded by a completely racist and discriminating atmosphere, which encouraged him to join the rebellions of the Black Panthers during the 1970s and to follow the socialist ideas that he skillfully blends into his creations.
He, along with others, like Mutabaruka or Oku Onuora, has approached the social reality of black people in the cities, saying their lyrics with the backing of reggae rhythm and melody, and that makes them very real precursors of a way of making art, which could be among the best of the influences which give way to current reggaeton.
In face of this reality, the only thing we can do is to seriously study this phenomenon which has quickly spread throughout our country and which occupies a space in the entertainment of many of our youths.
It's not about accepting obscenities or brutal simplifications of music and art like many reggaeton musicians opportunistically do and are willing to go on doing to earn some crumbs and fill the pockets of culture’s merchants; rather, it's about turning our senses back to our reality and taking from it the best it has to teach.
We must not ignore the fact that many cycle-taxi drivers in Havana -those who carry a radio on their vehicle to make the client's trip more pleasant or to satisfy their own preference and that of many other taxi drivers- are broadcasters of the reggaeton that can be heard along the streets.
We must inquire, explain to ourselves why it's important for them and for many of their clients, and more than that: why vigorous expressions of Cuban music such as rumba –just to mention one- have not been broadcast widely enough so that they become the heritage of these popular promoters?
In his speech delivered on September 23, 1891, on the occasion of October 10, in the Masonic Temple in New York, Jose Marti advised us: “to not foresee is a public crime and, a greater one not to act, due to incapacity or fear, according to what is foreseen.”
April , 2005
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