Thursday, January 28, 2010

Banned & censored Cuban artist Celia Cruz sings Josè Martì's words

I think they kill my child every time they deprive a person of their right to think. - José Martí
It is terrible to speak of you, Liberty, for one who lives without you. - José Martí

José Martí was born today on January 28, 1853 and in addition to being a journalist, poet, independence leader he was a fervent defender of freedom of expression and conscience. The regime operating in Cuba today is an affront to the values he defended his entire life. It is in remembrance of both him and of Celia Cruz who passed away in July of 2003 in Exile whereas Martí, who would spend most of his life in Exile, would return to Cuba by way of Haiti and perish in one of the early skirmishes in Cuba's second war of independence on May 19, 1895.

Celia Cruz banned and censored in Cuba for refusing to support the dictatorship is one of the great Cuban musicians who has been erased from the "official" Cuban history, but is remembered and loved by Cubans everywhere and in Cuba is remembered and listened to thanks to an underground black market. --> According to the book Shoot the singer!: music censorship today edited by Marie Korpe "musicians who left Cuba permanently after the Cuban revolution, whether for political reasons or simply to try to explore a possible career somewhere else in the world, are heavily censored by the government-backed broadcasting centre, the Cuban Insitute for Radio and Television (ICRT). How did this happen? When where the arts politicized and subjected to the dictatorship's veto? It began in 1961 and the website of Free Muse, an organization focuses on the freedom of musical expression, describes how it happened in its Cuba country profile:

Fidel Castro in June 1961 met on three consecutive Sundays in Havana with hundreds of artists and intellectuals. As a conclusion he gave a speech where he stated that "the Revolution defends freedom; the Revolution has brought to the country a big sum of liberties; that the Revolution can essentially not be an enemy of the liberties; that if somebody's preoccupation is that the Revolution will asphyxiate his creative spirit, that preoccupation is unnecessary, as this preoccupation has no raison d'être".

However, the worries were not diminished during the intense discussions, and Castro's speech was sufficiently ambiguous as to generate more doubts about the limits of freedom of expression, especially because one sentence became a key to the future cultural policy: "Within the Revolution everything is permitted, outside the Revolution, nothing".

Gradually the grip on culture was tightened. Music performed by those musicians who chose to go into exile criticizing the new regime, such as the extremely popular Celia Cruz and her orchestra, Sonora Matancera. The new music which was developed in North America and Western Europe at that time by groups and musicians like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin, Earth, Wind and Fire, was labeled decadent and counterrevolutionary.

The banning was so consequent that for years it was even forbidden to mention some of those names. The banning of Celia Cruz was specially tough because she was so popular before the revolution. [...] Her name and Sonora Matancera were among those omitted in the Cuban musicologist Helio Orovio's 'Diccionario de la música cubana' (Dictionary of Cuban Music, Havana 1981). In a later edition these omissions were corrected.

Eric Silva Brenneman observes that “[b]etween the 1960s and 1970s, the island performed a cultural genocide the consequences of which are still difficult to calculate today.” After fifty years of totalitarianism it is important to analyze and document the damage done and where possible seek the means to heal and restore that which has been lost where possible. In the area of music and culture much can be done.

"Guantanamera" Simple Verses by Josè Martì

I am an honest man
From where the palm tree grows
And before dying I want
To share the verses of my soul.
Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera

My verse is a clear green
And it is flaming crimson
My verse is a wounded deer
Who seeks refuge in the woods.
Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his honest hand.
Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera

And for the cruel one
who would tear out this heart with which I live
I do not cultivate nettles nor thistles
I cultivate a white rose
Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera

With the poor people of the earth
I want to share my fate
The brook of the mountains
Gives me more pleasure than the sea
Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera

1 comment:

  1. The Maltz Museum has been buying-up artworks of Marc Breed's and destroying them.
    -UPI Newswire