CRITICAL ZONE: Is there any crisis in Cuban popular music?

  • Written by Yuris Norido / CubaSi
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Featured CRITICAL ZONE: Is there any crisis in Cuban popular music?

Despite some bad omen, the Cuban popular dance music — which reached its greatest definition here, in this country— is not going to die ever for a simple reason: it is permanently linked to the very essence of the Cuban nationality. In other words, for Cuba’s popular dance music to die, the concept of Cuba and the condition of being a Cuban citizen should be no more.

Our popular dance music (son, rumba, cha-cha, and mambo, even what we call timba) identifies us as a people. It defines us. It is the best expression of our idiosyncrasy. It is not relevant if we know how to dance or not. That music is our heritage.

Having said that, let’s not pretend the bed is full of roses: it is true there are several young men/women who do not really value, enjoy, appreciate, and sometimes do not even know the latest of Cuban popular dance music…Not to mention its extraordinary tradition.

Foreign rhythms have earned their spot in the preference of people as they are much more socialized in spaces that go beyond those state-owned institutions. They have finally achieved their goal and taken root…Some fans even know to the T every lyric in the varied repertoire of the urban musical genre (including its least orthodox songs), but they cannot sing to themselves any of the most popular songs performed by our top orchestras.

It may seem very radical, but that is the way it is. To some, it is just a matter of music dissemination strategy and the responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the institutions. But some popular songs in certain “music” have not been even aired nor broadcasted by any mass media. The thing, as we may see, is way more complicated.

Banning songs is not the answer: musical genres, Cubans or foreign, have always coexisted. It is natural and attractive. The balance, as Maestro Cesar “Pupy” Pedroso once said, must go always in our favor. To reach that point, there should be certain quality.

The music socialization schemes are not similar to those applied few years ago. The impact of new technologies has democratized a lot the situation and the ways to have access to music are multiple and converging.

Better if we understand the context and draw up strategies without any concessions to the market (and we are not denying the need of a market) and without sacrificing hierarchies that ratify the quality. Institutions shall be responsible.

For artists (singer-songwriters, singers, musicians, and arrangers) it is their duty to work.

There are still unresolved issues, which deserve other perspectives: the quality of the programs of some institutions and mass media, the marketing schemes for Cuban and foreign market, the training of musicians in Cuba (note that most of Cuban musicians in top Cuban orchestras could very well play a concert by Mozart, but no academy in Cuba has a Department for Popular Music).

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff

Last modified onThursday, 16 May 2019 09:26

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