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Articles Illustration: Marlene P. Posada. Illustration: Marlene P. Posada.

Aquí el que baila gana

That the phrase that gives title to this text is a truth like a temple, especially in these days of so much physical (interhuman) disconnection, it is not free: dancing (like listening to music) will always be a gain. Nothing more horizontal, ecumenical and open than wanting (and being able) to do so. Because yes, because we need it. At least for me it has been hard to give up (rather postpone) the pleasure of dancing in concerts and collective spaces, so bear with me, my friends, these lines are pure nostalgia, from a time that seems far away, like from another life. 

When a little more than 365 days ago some believed that this virus would be temporary, and while I was enjoying myself “all the way down”, as it should be done at a Pupy y los que Son Son concert (Casa de las Américas, March 6, 2020), or in any of Los Van Van, from Havana D´Primera, I did not imagine that it would take a long time to return to that rush that brings you out about the Taino Indian, about my Africa next to the weapon Andalusian. It was not until, with antibacterial gel and a mask, in the courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts (December 29, 2020), Telmary and Habana Sana partially broke that inertia. covidian to, little by little, achieve that the bodies of those who were there finally came to loosen up almost almost as before. 

Enjoying music has several levels of personal involvement, and when it enters the field of the "popular", the "danceable", we fall into a wide spectrum typified in rhythms and melodies either historically or at the request of the current global cultural market and industry. Cuba, with a rich autochthonous universe of sound, has contributed in a century and a half, steadily, to the international way of dancing, with very particular figures and rhythms. what of And we have flavor! it is not baseless chauvinism. However, there are those who complain that the "ear" (and therefore the feet) of the Cuban have been "kidnapped" in the last two decades and perhaps a little earlier, as other sonorities (and ways of dancing) prevail. in the taste of the national dancer. Obviously, that worries many, but it is not a question of finding guilty or demeriting the preferences of each person, because certainly is One option staff and must be respected. Not even to think that because the Salón Rosado of La Tropical (cooking/pressure cooker of Cuban son and timba) has historically welcomed popular dance music, it should not expand the possibilities for other audiences to dance (yes, dance) with a rock group or some DJs (what sacrilege!, some will say). We can all dance, and that is music with a large audience, eager to enjoy. The same there as in the Piragua, the Tribune or in the lower part of the Almendares Bridge.  

I have good and fun memories of my childhood and adolescence (even in the Special Period): the carnivals in Bayamo and Santiago during endless summers of heat and music, with the whole family enjoying the Trocha Santiago, for example, performances by orchestras like Pachito Alonso and his Kini Kini, Los Van Van, the Original de Manzanillo and Cándido Fabré, the Son 14, the Karachi…, but also rolling on the congas from each neighborhood. In Bayamo (August, 2019), I see myself rolling down Martí street, from top to bottom. The congas, it is already known, are not just about "parading" with choreographed steps, but about following with the whole body the rhythm set by the drums, the bugles (Chinese or not), the cowbells and the popular shout. An experience, I would say, almost religious. 

That is why, once on the premises of the Lenin school (years 1995-97), it was natural to assume daily doses of casino in the "recreations" and multiple concerts of bands such as Manolín el Médico de la Salsa, David Calzado and La Charanga Habanera, Issac Delgado, Manolito Simonet and his Trabuco or Paulo FG and his Elite presented their songs almost out of the oven and warmed up those endless rounds of dancing couples. In the heyday of Cuban timba we enjoy each visit of these artists as if there were no tomorrow. I have never danced as much as in those years, my casinero-timbera soul was undoubtedly perfected there, something that even today makes me follow them to the closing of festivals or to the Casas de la Música. 

But also in the Lenin I got to know something of rock through certain friends (even the base radio sometimes woke us up electrified with november rain or Sweet Child of Mine from Gun N' Roses). In my year I vaguely remember Ciro who would later be in Porno para Ricardo. When, at the beginning of the 2000s, I saw (more than I heard, because the sound in the mythical Patio de María was never optimal) his punk group seemed to me "unforgiving" and irreverent (to the limit of the Gorkian pose) like any band It has to be punk, even if it didn't sound good. That in that patio they danced jaico (the hardcore) with dissimilar bands (recorded or live) don't have any doubts, because you couldn't in theaters even if Zeus, Tendencia, Combat Noise, or Havana, Garaje H and Tribal (the groups I liked the most) were playing. Rock in its multiple variants has been heard and danced in Cuba with ups and downs since forever, more or less undergroundIt doesn't matter, it is made and enjoyed by Cubans, as Cuban as anyone else.

On the other hand, how else would we understand the phenomenon of reentry of Habana Abierta on the Cuban scene at the beginning of 2003 and its subsequent mass consumption? That melting pot of individualities that made the rockason a fact that mixed everything: conga with rock, trova with rumba, samba, bolero, funk or rap, and emphasized a way of making music that revolutionized Havana (and the entire island by extension) with each concert. 

Oh the rumba! “The Rumba is me” the Muñequitos de Matanzas could say, because this Cuban musician-dance complex belongs to everyone, even to those who say they don't know (can) dance it. As a proactive sediment of national music, I gravitated toward it intermittently: from the jams at the Palacio de la Rumba (when I was in El Vedado a decade or more ago), to the perhaps not-so-spontaneous ones at Callejón de Hamel, to the presentations at the Devil Tun Tun of Osain del Monte…. The rumba in any of its variants is (re)concentrated energy, and if the drum calls, dance has been said with the intensity that it deserves. The convergence of the spoken/sung word and the rhythms of the batá are part of that African heritage that is still alive in popular neighborhoods and in art schools, and jumps to the ear punctually in the rhythm of others that with flow They have made their creative search an ethical/ethnic/racial discourse for several decades.  

To the latter, the buns —as initially known to those who bet on hip hop in the Cuba of the 90s, and then rappers with Festival (for several years) in Alamar (theoretical events, an agency, the fleeting magazine that announced Movement, concerts and “battle of roosters”, home productions) today practically disjointed as a potential presence in the Cuban urban music scene—, everything is still owed to them, and to their followers/dancers too, of course. I still remember at the beginning of the 2000s a presentation probably one of the first of Free Hole Negro in Parque Almendares, in front of a crowd eminently alternative rocker (several bands were playing that day), dismissive in the face of that unique sound they had, and Telmary saying: "You don't understand anything, right?"... They hooked me, and also the work of Obsesión, Anónimo Consejo, Doble Filo, Kumar, Ogguere, Orishas (their concert closing the 2018 Havana World Music festival still rings in the memory despite the passage of time, their time), the revulsive lyrics of Los Aldeanos when they were here, the strength of Las Krudas , the FresK… That bomb is no longer to be found, with few exceptions and award-winning albums. One goes (went) to parties and fortuitous presentations in bars or street events (Gallery Gorría or Andrés Levin, for example) and feels that "something" is missing, both in the musical production and in the flow. How to dance if you don't move beat, if you don't get the improvisation, or the speed, or the content, if there are no places to consume that music (other than digitally)? Since the end of the last century, the City Hall cinema (Cerro) and occasionally the Casa de la Cultura in Centro Habana, as well as later La Madriguera and the Pabellón Cuba, hosted concerts, but more than a decade has passed since the latter.  

It is no mystery to anyone that the massive consumption and production of reggaeton on the island first entered from the east: through the Caribbean stations and in the pun-pun of the popular neighborhoods of Santiago, for example (bouts as they were called in the capital) where the loudspeakers played Puerto Rican but also local numbers by Candyman, El Médico and shortly after Kola Loka, with a very unique sound. La Charanga Habanera, a pioneer in glimpsing epochal turns, incorporated into its show, since the beginning of the millennium, first pop and then reggaeton (cubaton), without abandoning its timba base. The list of exponents of the genre that came immediately after (given the accessibility of digital mixing of sounds that technology brought closer to its creators) is very extensive. With great preferences in the dancers, they are imposed over time and each one at his time: Baby Lores, Insurrecto, El Chacal, Gente de Zona, Jacob Forever, El Micha, Los 4, Los Desiguales, Chocolate MC, Yomil and El Dany, Kimiko & Yordy, Diván, Lenier Mesa… as well as other emerging young people who record in home studios and circulate in “boteros”, El Package, YouTube. Some (almost all) of those mentioned already inserted in international distribution channels and successfully presenting themselves inside and outside of Cuba, have paved the way. 

Now, the figure of the independent DJ traced, from the entrance of the techno and music house in Havana in the 90s, fundamentally, another dance route that goes from the initial disco-mobiles on the Havana boardwalk and throughout the island, to spaces such as Los Violines, the La Red club, the Tropicalito, to the parties in the Macumba, the Rotilla festivals (Mayabeque) or the sessions at the Salón Rosado de La Tropical with samples of national and international VJs and DJs, parties in bars and private projects, up to the Eyeife Festival. Also from Parque Almendares, this festival managed to enthrone the role of the DJ and electronic music through collaborations with countless sounds and performers (rock, rumba, funk...). Another dance route with a multitude of unconditional fans, always ready to follow their favorite DJs/producers as far as they can go. party arose. Music seen as fun, pure event, and the DJ as musical creator, become mediator of that event, guru of collective enjoyment.

If dancing is the healthiest thing for the soul to have fun, it doesn't matter if it's with rock, a guaguancó or a conga to close. The Cuban dancer has feet and a body that need to express themselves: nodding, tapping or timbing. Be Happy. And wait, we'll be there again, on the street, in theaters, in bars, carnivals, festivals, AM:PM downloads. And as that older wise man used to say: “don't take me for a fight because you don't have to study to dance”. Do what you want, turn up the volume and dance, alone or accompanied. Let go, here the one who dances wins. You will see how good it feels.  

Nahela Hechavarria Pouymiro Curator curated by cinema, music and dance, in that (dis)order. More posts

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  1. Sheila says:

    Great, yes. Dance Nostalgia. But I'm going to put your advice into practice.

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