The children of María Caracoles: a look at urban music in Cuba (1988-2018) I
Certainly no one could anticipate or imagine what we would hear and live in music thirty years later. In 1988 the most important musical concern of my generation was what would be the new proposal of Pablo Milanes and the musicians who accompanied him, or what new tendency would mark East Lopez with Afrocuba with the work of Silvio Rodríguez.
Musically, the Cuba of 1988 was much more than the concern about the proposals of the Nueva Trova. That year the Dan Den orchestra appeared, directed by the pianist Juan Carlos Alfonso and was formed mostly by former members of the Revé orchestra; José Luis Cortés and Germán Velazco gave shape to the NG La Banda project. On the other side of the musical proposals José María Vitier and his group offered a series of concerts at the Mella Theater that showed a facet of Cubanness that many could not decipher at that time; and frankly they would never understand the aesthetics of that music that was halfway between high culture and the popular.
There were, in addition, other important musical actors such as the case of Santiago Feliú, Donato Poveda and the rising Carlos Varela, who questioned the social patterns of that moment with less lyricism and intellectual audacity than the "Santy". It was 1988 the year in which publications like Sputnik, New Times and the USSR Magazine they filled their pages with articles where perestroika It was the raison d'être of "our elder brother". Meanwhile, in the Cuban media, the Sunday edition of Juventud Rebelde revived the best of Cuban cultural journalism that had been enthroned in the times of Monday of Revolution and the names of Leonardo Padura, Emilio Suri Quesada and Ángel Tomás González defined the new Cuban journalism.
It is the year of the schism in the iron discipline of the National Ballet of Cuba. Caridad Martínez decides to become independent and make a dance company closer to contemporary trends; Jorge Esquivel abandons his role as the first dancer and with him some of the most significant talents of the company leave. They were heretics worthy of a bonfire who, to complete their guilt, decided to bet on the work of street dancers; but we will talk about it later.
It was also an important city event the concerts that, at least once a month, the Moncada group offered on the steps of the University of Havana. In a frank and unexpected musical turn, they stopped making quena music, charango and ponchos to wrap up the pop with the voice and charisma of the singer Augusto Enriquez, a medicine graduate who imposed new systolic movements on the waist of the followers of that group.
For its part, the radio dared to broadcast the Ramón's program and the duo of writers formed by Chely Lima and Alberto Serret questioned Cuban society with the series Today is always still; while, the playwright Alberto Pedro put the finger in the social wound with the work Theme for Veronica, that announced the existence of a nascent phenomenon that responded to the name of prostitution.
Likewise, after having insisted so much, the TV began to broadcast a program called Colorama, that Marta Pita produced and that brought us closer to the musical trends in vogue in other parts of the world; overcoming the stigma of "ideological diversionism" that defined "socialist realism" and that in Cuba had its nuances.
For that program, it was learned in Cuba for the first time of a phenomenon called rap, or hip hop, of the break dance and his most known cultists at that time. Colorama It became one of the most popular spaces on the television programming grid and one of its broadcasts featured a character called "El General" with a catchy refrain that read "... mommy, mommy, give me pum pum ..."; what opened the doors to what we call chatting and it was nothing more than a euphemism to refer to the nascent rap in the Spanish language.
The interpreter in question was black and Panamanian; and from his work we only got to know that topic. But nevertheless; At that time, some young people-mostly blacks-began to take on rap as a very particular form of expression and to express it they decided to be part of the group. break dance, which caught the attention of those famous Cuban dancers who did dumbbell with their street counterparts and began to give a near training to the academy in aesthetic values. Of that pleiad of street groups the group called Broken Body would excel.
In parallel, some musicians of wide and solid academic formation would approach this musical phenomenon to be part of that musical movement of urban character; that it was already part of the cultural landscape of many cities of the world, fundamentally of the United States and an important part of the Caribbean Mediterranean; highlighting the guitarist and composer Edesio Alejandro, who founded his band Banda de máquina project that same year, in which he incorporates and fuses, in addition to the features offered by synthesizers and the emerging MIDI technology in creative and sound matters, the elements of hip hop , rock, pop and Cuban music.
It was 1988 and the musical concerns of the average Cuban were subordinated to the proposals of that time and those proposals depended on what the radio and TV defined. And while the record world was entering the CD as a way of listening and disseminating music, we Cubans popularized the walk-man and we were crying out that our acetate disc factory, or LP, would meet our needs.
In 1988, in addition, the Puerto Rican singer Lalo Rodríguez called us to apologize; while the Venezuelan ílolo Yordano Di Marzo spoke to us about the charm of a night of madness.
The term of urban music was not yet public domain and each Cuban carried in his pockets along with the identity card a cassette with the music he preferred. We were a nation where musical diversity proliferated.
Emir García Meralla