Alternative music scene gains ground on Cuba

December 2006 -

Singer/guitarist Gorki �guila Carrasco from the Cuban punk band Porno Para Ricardo was sentenced to four years of imprisonment for the possession of drugs in August 2003. The charge was trumped up: Gorki's punishment was more related to texts such as "Enough lies, old man", and not much imagination is needed to know who he was referring to.


Porno Para Ricardo

According to Dr. Mario Masvidal Saavedra, a teacher at the Cuban Art Academy and a programme maker for radio and television, the crusade against PPR's star was about more than the texts and the band's provocative name. It was about the music itself, as he explained during a conference organised in late November in Istanbul by Freemuse, an organisation that combats music censuring. "Everyone knows the stereotype of Cuban music: rumba-salsa-mambo. The government uses that music as a patriotic billboard. According to this thinking, rock and punk are un-Cuban." Rumba-salsa-mambo is also incredibly straight and void of risks for the authorities.

The rockers - and the rappers � have had enough of being straight. They are slowly gaining ground, because they are performing in Masvidal's television programmes and organising their own shows. Rappers with names like Free Hole Negro are putting an end to the myth of racial harmony, another flag the government likes to wave.

The wave of repression appears to be receding somewhat: Gorki was let out on parole in March 2005. But the music is having a hard time: no record label will sign on rock, punk, rap or reggae. "Not Cuban" is their verdict. Each year the free-of-risk "real Cuban music" has its official award festival called Cubadisco. The alternative scene now has an anti-Cubadisco festival. But what would happen according to Masvidal if the government were to regain its sense and neutralise punk and rap by including them in the mainstream? "Then a new underground would emerge."