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Cubanity according to Eva

Cuban Fusion. Cubanidad "In Between": The Transnational Cuban Alternative Music Scene.the new book by Dr. Eva Silot Bravo, takes a picture of "two opposite shores" that intertwine; two shores that become multiple because, although Miami is the city with the second largest Cuban population, the island's musicians play in Quito, Lima, Paris or any capital that makes room for them, and the author makes this clear.

Eva Silot begins with a phrase that partly defines her text: "The Cuban diaspora is among the five most important among Latinos in the United States". This exposes two recognizable shores, from which extremes are unleashed. One has tried to eclipse first level figures such as Willy Chirino, Paquito D'Rivera, Celia Cruz or Donato Poveda. The other, smashes records in the street in protest against concerts in Havana, or goes all out against Los Van Van or Silvio Rodriguez.

Silot Bravo speaks of that Cuba that is not from one side or the other, but from the country that we are, whether we like it or not, because we share the language, the congrí, the dead or towering figures of music such as Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Olga Guillot, Miguelito Valdés, Arsenio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Juan Formell and Tata Güines.

The author also abounds on academic musicians, jazzmen and singer-songwriters; she appreciates Pedrito Martínez with the same organicity with which she points to Boris Larramendi's work.

So that in Cuban Fusion. Cubanidad "In Between": The Transnational Cuban Alternative Music Scene.the experience of one woman is captured who served as Cuba's diplomat at the United Nations for seven years, settled briefly in Mexico, then resided in Miami, and currently lives in Oakland. Silot's analysis goes beyond the merely musical and reviews the gaze of the cultural authorities from a racial, political and even sexual point of view. In the text, one can find successive references to what Cuban musicians have done in the last 40 years, with the logical contradictions, the dissidences, the misunderstandings and the resounding signs of stolidity.

There is no such thing as impartiality; the adjective we choose places us on one side or the other. Dr. Eva Silot Bravo, who lives in the United States, can be exposed, but she has to deal with quotes from one place or the other, because, although her field of study is Cuban music outside the borders, the truth is that here the borders are tied to a stage that has little to do with geography. Cubanness no longer takes place on an island, but rather the island has expanded. Hence, Yusa, Dafnis Prieto or Yosvany Terry carry in themselves the Cubanness that exists in Aimé Nuviola or Vanito Brown, and that on the island one can find in Vivanco or Ray Fernández, or in the rare nostalgia heard in Buena Vista Social Club.

The book makes this analysis, looks at culture and the influences that successive crises, the fall of walls, the impact of the market and other extra-musical aspects that influence music, whether we like it or not. 

Tiempo Libre, Yosvany Terry, Los Timberos, Sonido de Miami, Aldo López Gavilán, Pedro Luis Ferrer and the career of the extra class Alain Pérez, are intermingled in this analysis, where it is clear that the Cuban has not remained on the island; on the contrary, in each migratory wave it has come out in the guitars, the congas, the basses of musicians sometimes trained in the academy or owners of a deep cultural heritage, with no other school than the neighborhood.

The scholar is not left out the fact that reggaeton, with its denying head, with its furious enemies, conquered a city that at some point was difficult to understand for Cubans arriving from the island. Miami, which was difficult for great Cuban stars settled there, could not resist the influence of the irreverent reguetoneros who have inevitably ended up proposing a new Cuba, a new man that has nothing to do with the classic proposal.

This is definitely a book to be taken into account to better understand the Cuban music made by our artists, wherever they are. A country that for a long time seemed to occur only within itself, has turned out to sing in many places without losing its essence, many times against the grain of profit. Silot exemplifies this when he talks about Habana Abierta, when he exposes the fact of singing about Cuba and maintaining a nationality at the risk of losing revenue. Perhaps that is part of their nature, to insist, because Cubanness does not allow them to make certain "concessions".

Silot shows in her book that, from afar, musicians -perhaps without thinking about it- bring out the Matamoros that the island put inside them and are as Cuban as the one who fixes his hat today in Jimaguayú (listening to Maluma). The author invites us to think deeply about Cuban music of the diaspora, crossed by politics, race, historical clashes, the patriarchal mandate, sexuality and the need to leave and yet remain Cuban; as if tied to what Zygmunt Bauman called the sweetness of belonging.

Rogelio Ramos Domínguez Writer of verses and songs. Full-time journalist and especially father of Claudia Ramos. More posts

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