CNN has a piece on how hip-hop is giving a voice to Cuba. Hip-hop in Cuba has grown partly as a result of state subsidies through the creation of the Cuban Rap Agency, as well as a record label, “Asere Productions,” and a rap magazine called “Movimiento.”
State subsidies of rap in Cuba comes with limitations however.
Formed in 1996, rap duo “Doble Filo” (“Double Edged”) have been part of the Havana scene since the beginning and work with the Cuban Rap Agency. But rapper Irak Saenz admits there are contradictions in being part of the system.
“It does limit our creative freedom,” he told CNN. “The CRA has an agenda that goes with the government’s agenda. It doesn’t limit me but it does force me to be creative in how I express my ideas.”
Real hip-hop artists in Cuba will only retain their artistic freedom by escaping the CRA:
But “Los Aldeanos”, who formed in 2003, are part of a younger generation of Cuban rappers. They don’t belong the CRA, and nor do they want to. They are defiantly underground and outspoken.
“Hip hop is an art form speaks the truth about how people are living,” says Aldo Rodriguez, one half of Los Aldeanos.
Their track “Niñito Cubano” is about a young boy growing up during Cuba’s “special period”, when the fall of the Soviet Union brought hardship to the island.
Their forthright lyrics about life in Cuba don’t make them any friends among Cuba’s authorities, and that limits their opportunities on the island.
“Our lyrics don’t always go with the standard Cuban rhetoric and often that won’t get airplay,” says Rodriguez. “I can be famous in other countries, but here they won’t let me play a concert in a theater.”
With state subsidy of art, the state gains control of what types of art is produced and distributed. If Cuba is given the opportunity to move further towards a market community, freedom of expression will be allowed that groups like Los Aldeanos success can be determined by fans and not by the whims of the Cuban government. One think the United States could do to help move Cuba to a market economy would be to end the embargo on both trade and travel with Cuba.