Friday, August 26, 2011

The power of music and art to resist totalitarian deadness

Photo taken by Pedro Luis Castro

Over half a century into a brutal totalitarian regime that banned and censored The Beatles and rock n roll in the 1960s along with some of the best traditional Cuban music ever produced because it did not accord with their "revolution" the cultural landscape has been laid waste. However symbols of resistance have arisen on the cultural front and despite repression and censorship continue to have an impact in the island.

Successful cultural resistance to repression, especially in totalitarian regimes, revolve around wit, humor and irony. The arts have also played and are playing an important role. In Belarus today there is Belarus Free Theater, an outlawed underground theater group, whose creativity is a threat to the tyrant there. You can help them here in the Zone of Silence.

In Cuba a while back a group of performance artists organized a non-violence performance in the streets of Havana with signs that said "No + Violencia" (No more violence) and shocked the regime. Although they were quick to say it was not a protest but a performance art piece.

Also in Cuba a punk rock group, Porno para Ricardo, that has challenged the tight boundaries of censorship inviting prison to the lead singer along with detentions and interrogations to the rest of the band but they courageously continue to rock on. Below is a video of one of their concerts in Ciego de Avila. The irreverent lyrics against the dictator are being sung by scores of young Cubans. Ironically, the video is titled "no tenemos coro" - we don't have a chorus because the crowd is acting as the chorus.

At the same time the dictatorship continues to try to censor, control and manipulate authentic cultural expressions. Most recently they seized a music festival called Rotilla from the founders to replace them with party apparatchiks in what is being called a kidnapping. This has led to a response both with direct language by the organizers and in the video below made by Coco Solo Social Club musical performance artists living in Cuba.

The best way to help these artists is to let others know about them and through the increased visibility provide them with a measure of protection.

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