A post by Peter Jordens.
J.M. (Jeffrey) Pijpers (University of Amsterdam) will deliver a lecture—“Cuban Revolutionary Society in Melody and Lyrics: Music, Politics and Resistance” on December 9, 2016, 3:30-5:00pm, at CEDLA [Centro de Estudios y Documentación Latinoamericanos] at Roetersstraat 33, 1018 WB Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Ya vendrán los Revolucionarios
que entonen el canto del hombre nuevo
con la auténtica voz del pueblo.
― Ernesto “Che” Guevara (El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba, p. 59)
Ever since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, music has provided a possibility for the authorities to get their political message across to “the people” in the most direct way possible. Dominant discourse was strongly focused on the empowerment of formally marginalized groups and the creation of “el hombre nuevo” [the new man] who, according to Che Guevara, was the role model of the Cuban man of the future: disciplined, humble, educated and dedicated to the Revolutionary project. As the above quote by Guevara suggests, music and the Revolution seem to form an organic whole.
However, in the decades that followed, music has also proven to be one of the primary forms of expression through which dominant, Revolutionary discourse was subverted. Younger generations of musicians started to mention a sense of alienation from the society in which they lived, and in spite of fairly strict censorship the canon of Cuban music – including, but not limited to its diasporic territory – has in some cases become openly critical and sometimes even outright provocative towards the regime.
Within this particular framing, Jeffrey Pijpers focuses in this lecture on the relation between music and politics. Not as separated realms, not in terms of “for or against,” but in terms of interconnection and affect: In what ways are the rebelling musicians also a product of the Revolutionary cultural project? How can hegemonic discourse be subverted and what role does censorship play in all this? Of course, he will also let the music speak for itself with various examples and fragments of songs by cantautores such as Sivlio Rodríguez and Carlos Varela, rapper Telmary Díaz, or the controversial rock group Porno Para Ricardo.
Jeffrey Pijpers finished his PhD at the University of Amsterdam with his dissertation Sonic Resistance: Diaspora, Marginality and Censorship in Cuban and Brazilian Popular Music (2016). During his Master’s trajectory, he combined his career in Latin American Studies at Leiden University with a minor in classical guitar at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, which explains his interest in music through song lyrics and their performance. The space of “the sonic” as a nodal point of a song’s narrative, auditive and expressive characteristics is a central theme in his publications and presentations. He currently teaches Literature and Cultural Analysis at the Spanish department of the University of Amsterdam.