Las Krudas. Foto: Rosy Campanita.
Las Krudas. Foto: Rosy Campanita.

Krudas Cubensi: living in resistance

13 minutes / Ernesto Eimil

27.11.2020 / Interviews

A few days ago, a friend who knows about the subject advanced how things would be. "The Krudas are very crude," he told me. And from that moment I knew that he was not saying it in the most obvious sense. But at the same time yes.

The words of Odaymar and Olikrude, the two autonomous halves of a duo that are over 20 years old, will never leave you indifferent. "We exist to put up the loudspeaker and denounce," they say, "to annoy the oppressors, make life impossible for them to make our life possible." 

Every detail of their music stems from something that they have learned, that they have seen, that they know. When I read their previous interviews I realized that they live in resistance, that, if we take public exposure as a violent act, the Krudas endure violence by exposing themselves with their lyrics so that others do not have to. It is as if they constantly say "here no one tries to please anyone, but rather edify, instruct."

“I am grateful and I intend every part every moment every second that you are deep inside / I intend that you stay, that you leave, that you exist, that you live, that you fight, that you breathe, that we breathe. / Being a black person and being alive and breathing is radical and revolutionary / I mean and breathe, I mean and I live ”.

Almost 25 years before these letters were written, the Krudas were awakening. It was 1996 when they founded the Cubensi Alternative Creation Group together with the artist Llane Alexis Domínguez. In the beginning they were Odaymar Pasa Kruda, Olikrude Pelusa Kruda and Wanda Kruda, Pasa Kruda's sister who separated from the group in 2005. They rode on stilts, performed performances, educated.

Odaymar always considered herself a transgressive person, even though she did not have knowledge of the concepts with which she now identifies as queer and gender non-binarism. It had a certain relevance within the LGBTQ + community a documentary called Gay Cuba, which was recorded in the 90s by Nordic and American filmmakers.

Like her mother, Olikrude was a "potential artist", always writing poetry. She traveled to Havana from her native Guantánamo to study at the National School of Art and a few years later Theater at the Higher Institute of Art. She says that the education she received there was very "Euroteur, boring and colonizing." The more natural and settled flow of Wanda and Odaymar attracted him. They joined their knowledge of theater, music and plastic arts, and began to do street theater. flow más natural y asentado de Wanda y Odaymar. Unieron sus conocimientos de teatro, música y artes plásticas, y empezaron a hacer teatro de calle.

"But the group really started in 1999, in Havana, Cuba," they clarify. A year earlier, and thanks to Rensoli, from Grupo Uno, they had been “invited to perform at the Alamar International Rap Festival”, that event that was so legendary a short time later. That was the group's first great moment. There they met many of the artists who were making noise in a city of economic crisis, unfair, discriminatory, but at the same time resilient and cultural. They had the need to express their rights as diverse people.

They confess that at that time they rapped more childish texts, "but with the style that the street needed." Interacting with that audience made them grow. “We were around the Amphitheater doing theatrical animation, some songs and improvising. It was beautiful".

Odaymar and Olikrude know that defining themselves as queer in Cuba at the beginning of the century was "a candle." This is how they describe it 20 years later. I think it is seen on their part as a necessary sacrifice. Taking a stand against gender binaryism was important: they opened the door for other people to a new form of expression, of recognition.

“Allá también es duro lo ke se ha sobrevivido / y por más ke lo gritemos akí no nos han oído. / Solo traga el corazón ke en silencio ha sufrido / y cuántas familias viven por kienes nos hemos ido. / Kienes nos hemos ido antes / kienes nos hemos ido después / kienes nos hemos ido cerca o de una puta vez”.

I ask for the name. They have explained it a few times, but each time it changes a little: new details are added. That's what happens with stories, they mature and grow. I decide to try my luck:

“When we started doing our first jammings, things were really beautiful and really raw. It was a very basic format: percussion and vocals. All original, created by ourselves from our corporeal, queer, Caribbean and vegan experience. The issues we dealt with, how we did them, how we fought, how we denounced, how we looked and how we sounded, were very crude. We felt that it was the word that best fit to describe what we were bringing ”.

Las Krudas. Foto: Rosy Campanita.

Las Krudas. Foto: Rosy Campanita.

They started with a drawer and checkers, improvising and inventing songs for street theater. Olikrude says that he forgot most of the traditional structures regarding tuning, harmony and melody, that he tried to let more of a popular sentiment flow. It has been a process of constant deconstruction, which has made the duo what it is today.

It has also been a reciprocal learning process: Olikrude showed Odaymar experimental and creative writing; while Odaymar gave Olikrude all of his art and queer activism. There were moments where they took from funk, from strong and lively hip-hop, from Afrocentric music.

In 2003 they made their first album, Cubensi Hip Hop. One of the two who conceived while living in Cuba. It was produced independently, like all that have come after. In 2004 they performed at the National Theater. It was from that year on when they were closest to Cuban institutions. The Cenesex created the Oremi project, for lesbian and bisexual women, and invited the Krudas to participate. Odaymar, in contrast, recalls that ten years before, around 1995, when he was part of the queer group GALES, they asked for a safe space and were told that they had no place, that the town was not prepared, so perhaps - they assumed - something was Changing. With GALES, "more than making a party, we wanted something to be educational". Begin to write the history of the movement in Cuba. In 2005 they released Kandela. In 2006 they left.

In 2003 they made their first album, Cubensi Hip Hop. One of the two who conceived while living in Cuba. It was produced independently, like all that have come after. In 2004 they performed at the National Theater. It was from that year on when they were closest to Cuban institutions. The Cenesex created the Oremi project, for lesbian and bisexual women, and invited the Krudas to participate. Odaymar, in contrast, recalls that ten years before, around 1995, when he was part of the queer group GALES, they asked for a safe space and were told that they had no place, that the town was not prepared, so perhaps - they assumed - something was Changing. With GALES, "more than making a party, we wanted something to be educational". Begin to write the history of the movement in Cuba. In 2005 they released Kandela. In 2006 they left.

They would say years later that censorship was one of the main motivations for leaving. I think that there is hardly a negotiation between privilege and what is discarded, what is tolerated, but not recognized. It is an exhausting process, no doubt. The Krudas left and kept negotiating, but now under their own rules.

"La tierra entera es nuestra y el derecho de viajar, huir, escapar, / no es solo una actitud de quien teme, sino un desafío de quien más no puede sostener su realidad / es la dignidad del que decide cambiar, aunque a donde vaya no haya na’ / Latinoamérica tiene derecho a emigrar, / África tiene derecho a emigrar, / Caribe tiene derecho a emigrar, / Asia tiene derecho a emigrar, / Tercer Mundo tiene derecho a emigrar”.

Nobody travels anymore, or at least almost nobody does it like before. Evidence suggests that people are now on the move. During the displacement there is a friction with the place you arrive that changes you, affects you. In a world full of travel, travel - truly travel - is the choice of only a few people. The Krudas know this and say that they had to emigrate “to make our own career, our own promotion. When you leave Cuba, your struggles intersect”. 

Odaymar and Olikrude acknowledge that settling in the city of Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world, has been the most important moment of their careers so far. They went through Mexico to the border, in a movement that they have never wanted to talk about very much. Upon arrival, the first barrier they faced was language. The second, the Internet: learning to select information, to use that information for your music and thus, find your place in activism world.

“Emigrating has placed us on the international map, it has allowed us to stay on the road as independent artists, it has facilitated access to information, to exchange; It has provided us with a full Internet where we can access all the music, the Cuban music produced today from the Island, access the art produced at all times; it has allowed us to study, learn, unlearn, travel, make international tours, meet many artivists from all continents, from diverse communities, support has multiplied, reach has multiplied, love has multiplied ”.

Nobody travels anymore, or at least almost nobody does it like before. Evidence suggests that people are now on the move. During the displacement there is a friction with the place you arrive that changes you, affects you. In a world full of travel, travel - truly travel - is the choice of only a few people. The Krudas know this and say that they had to emigrate “to make our own career, our own promotion. When you leave Cuba, your struggles intersect ”.

And, following the tradition of the emigrants, they began to work immediately: in 2007 the album Resistiendo came out, in 2009 Krudas Compilation; 2012 Levántate and 2014 Poderosxs, perhaps the most important so far and the one which made them win a Lucas Award in 2017 for the video clip of the song ‘’En el solar’’. In that same year they released Highly Addictive and two later LNL (La Negrísima Liberación), the most recent they have published.

The Krudas say know that the United States gave them a different, somewhat more global perspective. Several times they have said that the world is in chaos and that you cannot just sit in your corner supporting only black people. “No”, they have said, it is for the black women, for the emigrants, for those who work the land, for the sex workers. They have had that moment, which may or may not come, where you realize that there is a possibility that in reality the problems are only one: a great essential problem divided into particles, into something structural and terrible.

It is a position, a statement, as they say in Austin, that is also appreciated in their music. Songs come out with a tonic of protest, of rebellious party, of questioning and transgression. It is a music that has life, as they say, that has a visceral and autobiographical and profound character.

“Our thing is to form it where we are, you see? In Cuba, in the United States, with whoever it is: cane up to those people. Because so far I have not seen any people put in any country that represents me or that looks like me. Then: cane ”.

“Locas, nos llaman locas, porque cuestionamos siempre lo que supuestamente nos toca/ Porque unidas y muy firmes seguimos aquí como rocas, / porque nos llamamos bellas con este cuerpo de foca, / porque no comemos carne ni usamos oro ni coca”.

It is January 2020. No one suspects what is happening or what is going to happen in a few months. Las Krudas record a video clip with young black rapper Ana Ferrera, aka Eyeney, at La Marca, where they are surrounded by a carefree audience. Before each performance they think and elaborate their looks very carefully. Odaymar, flower shirt and hat; Olikrude, a plaid and cap. On other occasions they have used their own designs made mainly by Odaymar, which they also sell and print on pullovers, scarves, t-shirts.

The song that sounds is a premiere: Diferentone, (Diferent One), "mixing generations, good vibes only, making history, good vibes only, honoring memory, good vibes only". Olikrude gives the audience a small smile. An especially radiant smile. People respond by shaking their heads, hopping, covering their mouths, and rapping softly.

Months later, I ask him if they think that La Marca's audience has changed, that is, if the scenarios, if that same audience that consumes the genre, has been transformed and may be more open to assimilating radical voices. “Hopefully so”, they say skeptically, “a lot of people download us, then maybe yes”. 

The truth is that there is reason for mistrust. Hip hop is rebellious and critical, a voice for oppressed people who unite under a genre or song. At first glance it sounds like a common and inclusive crusade for the marginalized, but the truth is that women are often forgotten from these battlefields. Woman is the nigger of the world, sang John Lennon in 1972 and scared millions of Americans. Today John Winston could sing again and we would all pay attention, equally scared.

"Oh, please," they say about the question of machismo in the Cuban music industry. I cannot identify if it is an inevitable expression of the obvious or of systemic annoyance. It is a "please" emphatic enough to mention, and only in relation to the fact that one had to think it long and seriously before wishing it was a more specific, or more exclamatory, or more blunt "please." 

“To speak only of representation and percentages, take a look at the catalogs, the companies, the agencies, the compilations, the projects, the record companies; We have felt the mark of that machismo at all times, in the Cuban music industry and in the international music industry, everywhere, it is the same, machismo, a lot, ridiculous. We exist, to raise awareness for generations, heal the planet, improve the future ”.

They say that they are increasingly aware of who they are and their responsibilities. It is a theme that is reflected in their music, especially after the 2014 album Poderosxs, created at a time when perhaps they saw something and began to decipher it. "We are always awake to represent our identities and honor or question them as necessary." It is a slow work. So many centuries of ignorance do not disappear in a few.

They say that they are increasingly aware of who they are and their responsibilities. It is a theme that is reflected in their music, especially after the 2014 album Poderosxs, created at a time when perhaps they saw something and began to decipher it. "We are always awake to represent our identities and honor or question them as necessary." It is a slow work. So many centuries of ignorance do not disappear in a few.

Ernesto Eimil

Periodista. Admiro en la literatura y la música todo lo que sea específico y directo, lo obsesivo y perfeccionista. Trabajo para hacer algo sincero y orgánico. Siempre me acuesto después de las 3.

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