Cuban Rock: Protest with Limits

Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) featured the situation for rockers in Cuba. Sergio Acosta writes, “Rock music has always been a vehicle to express social and political rebellion, and that’s also true in Cuba. Cuban rockers do have to tailor their rebellion to stay inside the limits of what the authorities will accept, but those limits are surprisingly flexible.”

“I believe rock musicians chronicle what is going on in society,” says Javier Rodríguez, whose band Extraño Corazón (Strange Heart), founded in 1992, is one of Cuba’s most popular. Rodríguez claims that music can express love as well as hatred, and can also be “a way of expressing opposition to things that are happening in society. In our music, we voice the feelings of thousands of young people.”

Changing attitudes:  Rock music was heavily censored and restricted in the 1960s and 70s, but musicians continued to perform underground. It wasn’t until the 60s’ generation had matured that the regime was prepared to authorise performance spaces for them. Rock and jazz were seen as anti-revolutionary expressions of Anglo-Saxon culture according to journalist and Cuban music critic Joaquín Borges Triana, “At the beginning of the revolution, people viewed them as ideological expressions that were harmful to the revolutionary process. In the 1980s, when the revolution was well and truly established, the authorities opened up the rock scene. This is also when the new generation that had been born in the 60s burst on the scene.” Borges Triana, who writes a column for state newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebellious Youth), adds that rock music has always contained countercultural protests, but in the end the music industry absorbs it and markets it as mainstream. Music has always played an important role in expressing social criticism, in Cuba, from traditional rural troubadours to the rock musicians of the mid-80s and on to the present. Borges Triana explains that “using a more metaphorical type of language, at times stark or biting, rock has done that and continues to do that now”.

From Porno para Ricardo to Extraño Corazón:  New groups have emerged in recent years whose rebel music is a step too far for the authorities. Banned from performing in public, they make use of the internet to spread their sound. Gorki Águila and his group Porno para Ricardo (Pornography for Ricardo) are probably the best known example. Borges Triana believes the regime will not be prepared to accept Porno para Ricardo any time soon. “Gorki Águila’s group is very interesting,” he says, “because his music is extremely sexual and his lyrics are very erotic. His music is punk and this genre has always been very irreverent, offensive and countercultural”. The group steadily became more and more radical and openly opposes the Cuban political system but, “in Cuba, there’s no space for political dissident, even less so for dissidents who say the whole system is rotten.”

Beyond disgust:  Among the groups that are tolerated is Extraño Corazón, which this year received Cuba’s most important music award, Cubadisco 2012, for the rock CD Bitácora. According to the band’s director, Javier Rodríguez, “the type of music and lyrics we perform can be interpreted at various different levels. People aren’t stupid. They realise that we are saying things that go far beyond love and disgust. We’ve never been officially banned, and I believe that our listeners know how to interpret our songs. We don’t write our songs to please anyone.”

For original article, see

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s