Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cuba's Cultural Genocide: Cuban Music & Musicians Blacklisted Pt. 2

All is beautiful and unceasing, all is music and reason, and all, like diamond, is carbon first, then light. - José Martí

True knowledge gives a moral standing and moral strength. - Mohandas Gandhi

On the same day that Los Van Van, a well known Cuban band inside the island and cultural ambassadors of the regime holds a concert in Miami, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the blacklisted musicians that have suffered censorship and marginalization in Cuba. It is important to contrast the day to day reality of life in a free society where errors are made and passions can blind but can be corrected with that of a totalitarian state where one must submit and defend the indefensible or take the brave step of becoming a dissident and risk becoming a prisoner of conscience or defect and go into exile.

There are dire consequences to life under totalitarianism and it impacts everything including music according to the book Shoot the singer!: music censorship today edited by Marie Korpe there is increasing concern within the international music community that post-revolution generations are growing up without knowing or hearing these censored musicians and that this could lead to a loss of Cuban identity in future generations.The phrase cultural genocide is used to describe the "cultural revolution" of the 1960s and 1970s that blacklisted and censored scores of musicians and artists. The following is the continuation of a modest attempt to identify some of the victims of this process that has damaged and continues to damage Cuban culture and Cubans.

Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz born in Havana, Cuba as Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso was one of the most successful Salsa performers of the 20th century, with twenty-three gold albums to her name. She was renowned internationally as the "Queen of Salsa" as well as "La Guarachera de Cuba". She spent most of her career living in New Jersey, and working in the United States and several Latin American countries. She was a nonperson in Cuba. Celia Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said "Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music." At the time of her death the Associated Press reported:

"While the death of salsa singer Celia Cruz was reported prominently in newspapers across the world, the news got scant and somewhat bitter treatment Thursday in the official media of her homeland. The Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma reported Cruz’s death in a tiny, two-paragraph story published low on page 6 of the eight-page edition." [...] Cuban officials reportedly refused her request to visit her dying mother. “She always said that they didn’t let her see her mother when she was dying,” Soriano said, “and now she (Cruz) died without ever getting her fondest wish, which was to see this house again one day.”

Paquito D’Rivera

Paquito was a child prodigy. He started learning music at the age of 5 with his father Tito Rivera, a well-known classical saxophonist and conductor in Cuba. D'Rivera grew up in Cuba, playing both saxophone and clarinet and performing with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra at a young age.When he was seven, became the youngest artist ever to endorse a musical instrument, when he signed on with the music company Selmer. By 1980, D'Rivera was dissatisfied about the constraints placed on his music in Cuba for many years, and had always longed to come to the United States. In early 1981, while on tour in Spain, he sought asylum with the American Embassy, and left his homeland, wife and child behind in search of a better life with a promise to get them out. Upon his arrival in the United States, D'Rivera found help from many people for him and his family. His mother Maura and his sister Rosario had left Cuba in 1968 and had become US citizens. Many notables who reached out to help Paquito were Dizzy Gillespie, David Amram, Mario Bauza and Bruce Lundvall, who gave him first solo recording date.

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval is a jazz trumpeter and pianist. He was born in Artemisa, in Havana Province, Cuba. Sandoval, while still in Cuba, was influenced by jazz legends Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, and Dizzy Gillespie, finally meeting Dizzy later in 1977. Gillespie promptly became a mentor and colleague, playing with Arturo in concerts in Europe and Cuba and later featuring him in The United Nations Orchestra. Sandoval defected to the United States of America while touring with Gillespie in 1990, and became a naturalized citizen in 1999.

1 comment:

  1. This is truly a shame that these wonderful musicians aqre being threatened with ucedmisalig. Its truly unfortunate when beautiful artists get mistreated like this...