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Tue Nov 14 12:14:57 MST 2000
Orishas: Rap with Cuban Pride
By Eliseo Cardona CDNOW Senior Editor, Latin
A lo Cubano
The members of the Cuban group Orishas developed a deep passion for hip-hop
by listening to South Florida radio stations, whose airwaves can often be
heard in parts of Cuba. After fine-tuning their techniques to capture a
crystal-clear sound on homemade radios, Flaco-pro, Yotuel "guerrero"
Roldan, and Ruzzo started recording cassettes that would later help supply
the black market. There's a strong demand for rap in Havana nowadays, and
these tapes often outsell the bare necessities sold alongside them.
However, far from the different kinds of hip-hop dominating the charts in
the United States ("the land of the imperialist!"), this now Paris-based
quartet likes to call its music "a tribute to the spirit of Havana." By
that it means a mixing and meshing of Cuban styles and innocent stories
about daily life in the Caribbean island. The result offers an intriguing
portrait of young Cubans living under a communist regime.
A lo Cubano ("The Cuban Way") closely follows Castro's motto, "Within the
Revolution, everything; outside the Revolution, nothing." Thus, Orishas rap
about Cuban pride, Afro-Cuban Santeria (from where they take their name),
the nocturnal adventures of Havana's youth, and of living on an island
where the surreal is real, and common sense is fiction. There's no
exploitation or and glamorization of crime, no stories of women with big
buttocks, drug traffickers, macho men, or the sad violence of the ghetto.
Instead, Orishas offers a great deal of humor, as in the version of Compay
Segundo's "Chan Chan" ("537 C.U.B.A.").
Musically, the production benefits from the smart juxtaposition of
percussion (supplied mostly by Angel "Anga" Díaz) and Parisian experimental
electronica. It's been said that the best hip-hop grows proudly in
America's inner cities, but Orishas reminds us that the genre has a Cuban
brother who likes to rap in the language of the Havana streets.
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