Dispute over Cuba’s Rotilla Festival

The Miami Herald reports that organizers of the Rotilla Festival, an outdoor music festival held in Cuba that has been called “Cuba’s Woodstock,” are protesting government agencies’ involvement in the organization of the annual event. The organizers of the Rotilla Festival, a three-day “rave” held each summer on Jibacoa beach 35 miles east of Havana, say that the Ministry of Culture and the Music Institute want to take over the festival, saying that the government is stealing or “kidnapping” their work. Although organizers have canceled the festival, some say that the government may host it anyway on August 6-8, 2011. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Festival founder and executive director Michel Matos told reporters in Havana Wednesday that his group, Matraka Productions, was cancelling the free, non-profit and independently run event in protest, but the government is going ahead with it August 6-8.

Sometimes described as Cuba’s Woodstock, Rotilla was featured in a recent Cuban documentary film titled Aire Libre, Spanish for both “outdoor” and “free air.” Blogger Orlando Luis Pardo once called it “a beachhead for unimaginable freedom in Cuba.” Last year’s festival drew 15,000 youths to hear a string of “alternative” music groups and DJs. Photos of the event showed youths dancing in their bathing suits, and there were some reports that alcohol and recreational drugs were available. Although the festival was started in 1998 as a small beach party for fans of electronic music, it now includes many kinds of “alternative” music and its Web site notes that it has embraced “social campaigns” in ecology and health.

Since 2006 the Cuban government has helped with issues such as sanitary facilities, drinking water, transportation and security, and the festival now receives support from the Spanish and Dutch embassies and EXIT, a music festival held in Serbia.

The statement by Matraka Promotions’ board of directors noted that in previous years Cuban authorities “pushed so that some group would not play” at the festival “and in exchange they cooperated.” It added: “It was never easy to tell an artist that he could not play because the Culture Ministry rejected him.” “But on this occasion they have gone too far,” it added, complaining that Matraka had been “informally” told that the Culture Ministry and the government-run Music Institute was sidelining Matraka and taking over the event and its name, place, dates and logo.

Government officials also plan to feature bands “that modify the format” of the festival, the statement added. It gave no further details, but last year’s gathering featured Los Aldeanos, a rap duo that often scolds Cuba’s communist system. Matos alleged that some bands are being offered up to $1,000 — a small fortune in Cuba — to play at the festival next month in an apparent attempt to overcome the musicians’ loyalty to Matraka. [. . .] Matraka also alleged its members are being “watched,” presumably by state security agents, and have received “subtle or direct threats.” It vowed to file a lawsuit to reclaim its control of the festival, and seemed to hint at possible troubles ahead.

“We want to warn our leaders that these types of action undermine the very basis of the social contract that exists in Cuban society,” it noted. “They attack the respect that a people should have for its government … and leave the sons of Cuba without guidance and without hope.”

For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/07/22/2325070/organizers-say-independent-music.html

You may follow the Rotilla Festival (@rotillafestival) on Twitter or see http://www.rotillafestival.com/es/

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