Archive

Archive for November, 2009

Ciro’s Swans

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

The Cuban musician Ciro Diaz, from the group Porno para Ricardo (Porn for Ricardo) made a rock version of Swan Lake, written by the Russian composer, Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). For the title he put “I Hate Swans.” It was recorded on La Paja Records,* an underground music studio in Havana. The drawings are by Charlie Bravo, who was inspired for the story by the supposed clash between swans and crocodiles for the control of a lagoon on the island.

Translator’s Note:

*”Paja” means masturbation, and “Paja Records” is a play-on-words of pajarraco, an expletive for a bird, as in “damned bird.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

Chronicle with a First Quarter Moon

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Perhaps I’m not the right person to write this chronicle. Or perhaps I am. I know of colleagues who personally knew Silvio Rodriguez in that first stage of the revolution, ingenuous and difficult, crude and contradictory, where children, as if by magic, were converted into men.

Again I am going to talk about the spell that Silvio cast on my generation, considered by many to be “lost.” All of us under 50 years of age found a rare similarity in the way we agreed with his lyrics.

Perhaps in school, in the theme song for a child’s television show or in the voice of a friend, I don’t remember exactly now, but when I discovered Silvio he was composing songs for a little while, and he had been one of the founders of the Sound Experimentation Group of ICAIC (the Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematography), together with the indispensable Pablo Milanés, Noel Nicola and Vicente Feliú, among others, all directed by Leo Brouwer, who already was a maestro.

One year later, in 1973, the New Trova Movement, of which Silvio was a major part, had been created. The Beatles, already a myth around the world, had disintegrated in 1970, and it was no secret to anyone that the geniuses of Liverpool, with their rock-ballads, had left an irremediable vacuum after their break-up, in spite of the psychosis that they gave to the Cuban cultural and political authorities.

Then, I think the experts on culture strategy saw a gold mine, and thus they supported that unkempt group that sang about strange things but in the end were “revolutionary.”

A truce was declared. The media spread Trova, little by little. They were at the service of Silvio and the New Trova. With his reserve, of course. At the beginning, to the disgust of the Trova singers, they were heard only during political events, patriotic commemorations or days of national mourning.

The official propaganda up to then emphasized the known themes of Silvio Rodriguez, like The Era is Giving Birth to a Heart, Gun Against Gun, Song for the Elected and the Mambi Chief, songs that with their metaphoric and poetic language demonstrated support for the revolution. Silvio also sang about the every-day and lost love but, for the moment, until his complete loyalty was not shown, those lyrics sailed away into semi-secrecy.

The singer-songwriter from San Antonio de los Baños was a kind of diminishing quarter-moon. We could aprpeciate only one part of his face. Thus, in that way, he came to our generation.

We hummed the lyrics on patriotic anniversaries or when remembering the martyrs. Silvo was growing up with us. When the 80s arrived, the proven Cuban composer was not censored. It had been a sad and traumatic birth, but here was this Rodriguez, in his proper place. One of the best Cuban composers of the 20th century.

The lyrics of The News Summary and I Hope So stopped raising suspicions. On the contrary, he was a prophet in his own land and also in Latin America and Spain. Many, the same as I, pursued and annoyed him, from concert to concert. We knew almost his whole repertoire by heart.

Human beings need myths, leaders, chosen people….and for us, Silvio was it. Or, at least he marked a precious percent of Cuban youth, although some of them later were converted into critics of his work and his ideological position. Others say that he was blocked, he adapted and was intimidated.

My current political position differs a good bit from that of Silvio Rodriguez during these days of November when I turned 63. But I’m not going to stop admiring his songs for that reason. It would mean negating and betraying an important part of my life.

Now, Silvo, we see you clearly, bereft of the halos whose lights deceived us. And we are grateful to you, we have been enriched spiritually and separated from superfluous and useless music. Millions of those from my generation are far away in other lands, under the sea or have split forever. I don’t know about others, but I want to thank you for having proposed something to us, not imposed. For having freely transmitted to us good values. That is more important than any militancy.

Iván García

Photo: Interiano Vinicio, Flickr

Translated by Regina Anavy

Silvito the Free and I

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Before Sept. 20, when Juanes * at the end of his concert made public thanks to Los Aldeanos (The Villagers) and Silvito El Libre (Silvito the Free), the rapper son of Silvio Rodriguez was already known on the internet. “Who said that the Cuban revolution is in the final stage, that there is no renewal or new blood? Here we have Silvito el Libre … We still do not know if he uses the words sunset, hummingbird and soothsayer in his rhymes, but surely he will be a big summer blockbuster. “Don’t lose sight of him,” they wrote August 25 on the Chilean Web site The Clinic. Among his topics that you can hear on You Tube are the Hero, Now We Will See The Faces, Kill Yourself, Mamá and Rap, I’m Still Here, Nothing and The Etik, among others. More about his life, published in the cyber-magazine on the blog Rapdiacion Local.

* Colombian pop singer.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Cristal River

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Río Cristal, a tourist center inaugurated in 1960, is located on Avenida Rancho Boyeros, close to one of the airports in the capital, after passing the Aqueduct of Wind. It’s on the site where, in the 18th century, a slave barracks existed, and, later, a convent for nuns. Remodeled on different occasions, it still enjoys being the choice for the people of Havana, above all those who can pay with CUCs to stay there.

The entrance is still the same, wide and shady.

The swimming pool is in great demand all year.

…surrounded by a tranquility and a vegetation that is absent in the best hotels of the city.

And, for the kids, the park.

…in particular the little castle, in good-enough shape.

Inside the same installation, not only are there unattended areas, there is also the river. According to data published on Cubanet on September 22, between 2008 and 2009, five young people drowned in the Cristal River, which borders the recreation center of the same name.

Because of the deaths and accidents. the police have put up a sign prohibiting swimming in the river, but the young continue to do it. They say it’s because they don’t have other places where they can go to have fun.

Alexander, a lifeguard at the Rio Cristal swimming pool, said that on many occasions he has had to help kids who were on the point of drowning, but he did not always arrive on time.

Ana Lidia, the mother of a child who lives in the area, asserted that the river water is very contaminated. “The time my son escaped from me and went into that filth, he contracted a staph infection.”

Iván García, with text and photos by Robin Thom, of Flickr.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Good Bye, Happiness

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

It is not a video, it is an audio to which photos have been added, But the news is that, at last,

the song that caused the detention of its authoress, Ela O’Farril and her subsequent exile in the 60’s, can be now found in You Tube. It is part of ‘Gracias’ (Thank you), Omara Portuondo’s last record.

Translated by: Tanya May

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.