Danay Suárez, Cuban Singer and Rapper


Danay Suárez was discovered a few years ago by British DJ and world-music connoisseur Gilles Peterson while recording his compilation Havana Cultura in Cuba, for which many other local rappers participated. Suárez stood out because she could rap “with perfect flow and compelling, conscious lyrics” and she could also sing jazz, soul, reggae, blues, and more, with the same ease. Suárez’s description in the Havana Cultura site stresses that “she can rap convincingly about the plight of sisters and the shortcomings of brothers without striking a gangsta pose, and her singing is invariably lovely.” Here are excerpts from her biography/review:

Danay, 24, was born in Havana’s Cerro district. When her parents separated she moved with her mother to Santa Fe on the outskirts of the city. [. . .] “Now when I see all the noise and dirt in [central Havana], I can’t wait to come back here, for the peace and quiet. And I’m close to the sea here, which is important to me.” Danay lives with a younger brother and their mother, whose ceramic art decorates the patio outside. Her aunt Isabelle is responsible for the sculpture that sits on top of the house — an enormous toilet bowl gaily painted with a floral motif, which can be seen from miles around.

[. . .] She says she started rapping “by accident,” writing about things that matter to her, making up rhymes. “I was sure of myself, sure I had something to say and I wanted people to hear me. A rapper needs to have that kind of confidence. I said a lot of shit and now I’m trying to be more quiet.”

When she was 15 she was invited to take part in a concert in Havana’s Teatro Nacional. “I had to sing with my back to the audience, I was so nervous,” Danay says. She continued to play concerts organised by the Cuban Rap Agency, the government-funded entity that promotes hip hop in Cuba. Then she started working with Aldo, one half of Cuba’s most celebrated underground rap duo, Los Aldeanos. Aldo helped Danay record and produce her own songs (“Libre,” “Individual”), and she sang with him on some of his songs (“La La La”).

One day, back in 2007, Danay gathered together a lot of her demo recordings and went to see Cuban fusion superstar X Alfonso. “He was the only person In Cuba who I thought would understand what I wanted to do,” she explains. “I didn’t think twice. I just went to his house and said, ‘You don’t know me, here’s my music, listen to it. If you need a backup singer, give me a call.’ A few days later he asked me to work with him, and I haven’t stopped.”

What lies ahead for her? “Of course I’d love to have a jazz group,” she says. “I’d love to have a studio with professional engineers behind the mixing board. But until that happens, I’ll continue making my music in the street, rapping, even if I’m not signed by a big record company. The most important thing is for people to hear my music, which is not only about my life but also maybe about the lives of millions of Cubans. That’s what I’m doing.”

For full article, see http://www.havana-cultura.com/en/int/cuban-music/danay-suarez-fernandez/cuban-hip-hop

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