Regueton cuba
Ilustración: Jennifer Ancízar / Magazine AM:PM.

The devil raises them and the people gather them

12 minutes / Berta Carricarte Melgarez

16.10.2020 / Articles

A highly esteemed journalist, moved by the untimely death of Daniel Muñoz Borrego (a member of the duo Yomil and El Dany), expressed in a passionate post on Facebook that never having listened to them made us ignorant. In her effusive text she stated: "To say that we do not like the genre or subgenre in which they are inscribed denotes even greater ignorance." That was my case. Or almost.

I was dumbfounded. Not because I felt offended or something similar, but because she and other young people whose views on various topics I have shared many times, were showing me, with their defense of the popular duo, that a phenomenon so badly looked at from the vantage points of national culture could to shake, if necessary, both the culture and the nation. She asserted that: “Not knowing Yomil and El Dany is not knowing how their millions of followers, mostly young, work; how they communicate and relate ”.

I have always thought that reggaeton is a desperate cry of youth, an escape valve, a cocktail of anger, alienation, joy and hope, all together. It is one of the ways in which current Cuban society communicates its daily experiences. I am not referring, of course, to the cubatón, a variant, perhaps more noble, or lighter, that fuses reggaeton with other traditional rhythms of the country, and whose maximum exponent is Gente de Zona; A group that not only gives prestige to Cuban music nationally and internationally, but has also set the bar high with its productions of unquestionable quality.

At another point in the post, the journalist alleged: “Whoever does not know where the expressions ʽhala jala 'come from, ʽcooking the last one and pa'trá', ʽasere, how do I discharge you ', ʽrica perry', (…) ʽnormally, girl ', he cannot understand a fundamental part of Cuba because he does not know its language and its symbols ”.

Reggaeton artists are likely to be the authors of some phrases that they popularize in their songs, but they don't want to put the chupa chupa in my mouth: it is also almost certain that their texts are nourished by the oral content that circulates in all Havana neighborhoods, peripheral

Days before the unfortunate death, social networks had been heated with the award for Best Composer of the Year, delivered by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Editors (Ascap) to the Puerto Rican Bad Bunny. That was the pretext that prompted me to see who this character was who provoked acid expressions and disqualifying protests from her detractors, who are not pure haters.

From the controversial award given to Bad Bunny, and in my attempts at reggaeton literacy, I followed the trail of René (Resident) of whom I am a fan, and I have discovered and enjoyed Bellacoso; I have applauded the complaint contained in Sharpening the knives. I got to Yo perreo by myself, which rekindled my intense desire to dog, an interesting pelvic movement that I was already practicing as a daily calisthenics in the shower. Other compositions of the Bad Rabbit applauded by their fans were indifferent to me. I understand and sympathize with the insult that many people express when speaking of him as a composer. But that doesn't get the pins out of me.

For me reggaeton is neither good nor bad, quite the opposite. I mean, it depends. Sometimes the phrase “reggaeton-free territory” makes me feel relieved. It is a motto used among the culinary elite, as a password that you can be in the place with confidence, the vulgarity will not break there. The repudiation of reggaeton is not an exclusive phenomenon - perhaps for the majority - of the Cuban intelligentsia. I have heard various personalities in Spain, for example, condemn and speak ironically about this genre. For me there are only two things worse than reggaeton: Mexican corridos and country music. I know, they might lynch me for saying that, but judging by the speed and variability that the COVID-19 pandemic has put into much more important and global events, they will soon forget.

However, it fascinates me to hear Rocío Dúrcal singing any ranchera. Nor do I dislike listening to a well-mounted Guajira controversy for a while. In the same way, I remember that I liked the magnificent voice of Elvis Manuel, whom my son listened to when he was a child, and songs of people that I do not identify because most of them I hear them on the street, in the bus, in a recreational center or another. public place. That I don't listen to reggaeton at home is written in the Bible. And that reggaeton is everywhere, too.

A follankele, no es obligado, es si tú quiere

I am not very sure that if we understand reggaeton, if we accept it and agree with it, we can understand certain phenomena that occur today in Cuban culture and society. I think it is the other way around, that reggaeton is not reflecting but rather cloning reality and / or the dreams and mental speculations of a good part of the youth.

Let's say I have my personal version of why young people and other social groups identify with reggaeton, but I may be wrong. And if listening and watching reggaeton videos depends on reaching that nirvanic truth hidden in that persistent musical form, if there lies the essence of what it is to be Cuban or Cuban today, I am afraid of being denationalized, because I do not conceive of life as a sacrifice. And for me it is a martyrdom to listen to it (at least a certain type of reggaeton) outside the sacred temple that are the discos. For a dancer like me, this genre is not a frontier, but a challenge, provocation and challenge; the track is the only space of pleasure and understanding between me and her heaviest version.

The official journalism has been characterized by opening intense fire to reggaeton, which has turned a deaf ear and continues its mechanics against the grain as if there were no tomorrow. In my opinion, there are good, regular and bad compositions, as in any other musical genre. However, although at first glance it seems that the reggaeton made in Cuba has had to settle for a reductionist vision of what in terms of prestige this music can mean within the island culture, we must applaud what these guys have achieved so far. . In 2017, the Billboard Latin Music Awards included among its nominees the duos Yomil and el Dany, and Gente de Zona, along with other Cubans who develop their careers abroad such as Osmani García and Pitbull.

Another of the pretexts to approach reggaeton, gagging my prejudices, was the death of El Dany, not so much because of the pain of the loss of someone whom I almost did not know until that moment, as because of the deep emotion that watching on YouTube produced lots of saddened youth, singing, waking; paying spontaneous homage to those who managed to sow admiration and joy in their hearts. Not to mention that he was the same age as my son and that they both grew up in the same neighborhood, so to speak.

But, to be honest, the more I watched the videos of the Cuban tandem, the less I liked them and the more it saddened me. To put it quickly and painfully, I think it lacks production at the level of image, originality, creativity, aura, fantasy, impact and even morbid. It is clear that their youth helps to hook the public, and they do not lack the natural grace and talent necessary to classify in the genre standard; however, in my opinion, they were only beginning to take the tail. But, without a doubt, they had scored in the correct queue.

Métele sazón, batería y reguetón, que lo demás lo pone Calderón

Why is reggaeton triumphing among young people? In the first place, because it is assumed as an identity phenomenon. It comes from abroad, but at the same time it is the result of Caribbean mixes to which it is also possible to juxtapose Cuban music itself.

According to the Mexican sociologist, ethnomusicologist, journalist and DJ, Bruno Bartra, the basis of reggaeton is a variant of the triplet, an elemental figure of the rhythm known as habanera; present, in turn, in the quadrille. In other words, the genre has been suckled by the same breast as the contradanza, the danzón, the cha-cha, the mambo and the salsa.

Reggaeton has been said to involve New York hip hop and rap in its genesis. Therefore, its origin, in addition to being multicausal, is marginal, although its consumption exceeds those limits. With a main entrance in Puerto Rico with Don Omar, Tego Calderón and Calle 13, the prominence of reggaeton in its different modulations is so great that it drags artists from other genres such as Justin Bieber himself, Madonna, Beyoncé, Jennifer López, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Juanes or Paulina Rubio. If in Puerto Rico a middle class allied to the government initially tried to de-characterize the pioneers of the genre, associating them with marginalization, their attitude has changed as a result of their impact on the record industry. Today it is the most important Puerto Rican musical export product.

The cultists of the genre feed on behavior patterns that they observe in reality, and that lead to the plane of creation without much tropological transfer. Because there is so little distance between everyday life and the music they make, you don't have to strain to get in tune with it. At the same time, many letters, in the case of Cuba, express the natural inventiveness of a lifetime.

Reggaeton thus becomes a cry that, seeming sadistic, is, at best, masochistic. Often hides pain, frustration, hopelessness, anger. It makes up an unfortunate state of mind; it is a drug that mistakes hysteria for euphoria. The winner is the one who has money, and money is power, and it is the escape route from reality. In that illusion of productive banality all the sadness of life is submerged. That is why its rhythms and lyrics seem to produce a kind of narcotic effervescence.

Another aspect that makes reggaeton a stigma is that it is music of black seed, in the sense that it is produced and consumed in principle, from a universe that clearly recalls the hip hop nation harvested in the womb of an indisputable Afro-Americanism. A middle class mentality in Cuba, and other similar strata have emphasized such a condition to relegate the taste for that music to the seat of pseudo-culture.

The rejection that is expressed in a more or less official way towards reggaeton, viewed from the nausea of those who feed or feed on the so-called high culture, turns it, without self-awareness of it, into a weapon of permanent offense, attack, dissent, subversion and cultural resistance. How many dissatisfactions, frustrated dreams, fears and gags are hidden in his (un) angry language, which by dint of seeming simple is extremely cryptic.

El reguetón en Cuba ha sobrevivido al rap, su hermano de sangre, y goza de mejor salud, quizás porque se intenta refuncionalizarlo como una herramienta de despolitización. El rap se alimenta de la crítica social, el reguetón va a la my love, a la gozadera y al descontrol hormonal, a lo más básico del instinto humano. El fenómeno de la digitalización global de la música también ayuda a que el gusto por el género se recicle y se fortalezca, en medio de un mundo cada vez más caótico y brutal. Todos los pronósticos indican que habrá reguetón para rato.

La última presentación de Yomil y El Dany fuera de Cuba fue, por casualidad, en Toronto, ciudad en la que me sorprendió la pandemia. Además de ser una metrópolis multicultural, durante el verano (me cuentan) hay aquí infinidad de festivales de música que toman literalmente las calles; este año suspendidos todos, por causas obvias.

So, I had to screw myself in this boring city with a cardboard soul. After you toured its parks and forests, the part of Lake Ontario that it touches; After you put peanuts on the squirrels, took a selfie with a raccoon and ran away from a skunk; After you had sex and blue madness and everything permissible under the biblical arc of the pandemic, what you are left with is getting bored, what survives is deafness due to the absence of music. You can let go of the soles of your shoes while walking downtown, entering its malls, cafes, bars, kiosks, or crossing its squares and its infinite bridges, and you will only hear the silence of a city that breathes noise, but not songs. Toronto is a nickel-plated savage that spits skyscrapers. My nostalgia for Havana would be less intense if Toronto weren't reggaeton-free territory.

Berta Carricarte Melgarez

Maratonista, antimachista, industrialista y fan de Michael Jackson. Aspirante a tiktokera.

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Muy sincero este artículo. Normalmente no leo nada sobre el reguetón, hay demasiada apología en torno a un género que para mi jamás ha valido la pena y que hallo corto de todo, hasta de esa malicia y sensualidad que todo el mundo le asocia. Me ha parecido muy interesante tu perspectiva.

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