[Marxism] The Youth Cultural Association Versus the Agency of Rap

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 2 23:18:38 MDT 2005

(Just like the process of continental integration and 
realignment takes complex, multifaceted forms, from
Petrocaribe to Telesur and so on, Cuban culture in its 
rap formation, finds ways to take up contradictions in 
the island's social life and refract them for a broader 
public on the island. Hip-hop is very widespread on the 
island today. The group ORISHAS is so popular that you 
hear their music on answering machines! Los Cubanitos
(The Little Cubans" can be heard on the streets of big 
cities, at parties and on the radio widely. Sounds like 
a lot of great energy comes through in the documentary.

(Interestingly, the groups which this NY Times reviewer 
portrays as supposedly against the Revolution are also 
anti-materialistic, so they're hardly likely to think a 
restoration of Batistian rule would be a good thing, and
especially not for black Cubans!)

Looking for background reading material about this?

Read: "Is rap playing its rightful part in social life"
From: Movimiento, #3 
La Revista Cubana de Hip Hop

August 3, 2005
The Youth Cultural Association Versus the Agency of Rap


This short documentary about the growing hip-hop movement
in Cuba, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, follows
five hip-hop groups as they struggle to put together the
ninth annual Havana Hip-Hop Festival. Whether because of
government censorship or simple lack of means, most of
these artists can perform and record their music only in
cramped family apartments, hunched over their computers, as
relatives burst in to complain about the noise. The
festival, a yearly outdoor concert in Almendares Park, is
their one chance to reach large audiences, including record
companies and foreign media outlets.

As several artists make clear, Cuban rap is at a crossroads
as it transforms from a form of underground protest music
into a state-sanctioned cultural enterprise. The film
traces the increasingly bitter division between
commercially successful groups that have recorded and
traveled outside the country under the auspices of a
government ministry, the Agency of Rap, and the more
subversive acts that have remained underground, loosely
banded into a group known as the Youth Cultural
Association. In several scenes, the rappers gather to
engage in fierce debates about the relative merits of these
two organizations. There are also heated discussions about
the implications of importing an American cultural
expression like rap into the Cuban political context.

The film's soundtrack is chockablock with infectious,
cleverly worded songs in which familiar slogans about
struggle and revolution are refashioned into anthems of
rebellion against Communist orthodoxy. Yet these
conscientious young rappers are also wary of the music
industry outside Cuba. Many bemoan the current state of
hip-hop in America, whose lyrics they see as materialistic
and complacent (though one scene from a shoot outside
Havana makes it clear that music videos in Cuba can be
every bit as vapid as those on MTV).

The film, which opens today in Manhattan, concludes with a
too-short sequence featuring the performances at the
festival itself, which include a lesbian feminist
collective called Krudas, or Raw Girls, and all-male groups
with idealistic names like Hermanos de Causa (Brothers of
the Cause) and Familias Cuba Represent. Though it could do
with fewer talking-head interviews and more extended clips
from these impassioned live performances, "Young Rebels" is
essential viewing for anyone interested in rap music, free
speech issues or the youth culture of contemporary Cuba.

Young Rebels

Opens today in Manhattan.

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck; in Spanish, with
English subtitles; director of photography, Mr. Fleck;
edited by Ms. Boden; music by Anonimo Consejo, Bob
Durham/Bcolossal, Familias Cuba Represent, Hermanos de
Causa, Krudas, Los Paisanos and Símbolo Admicion; produced
by Ms. Boden and Richard Sterling; released by Gowanus
Projections. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East
Third Street, at Avenue A, East Village. Running time: 70
minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Adrianci Gonzalez, Alexandra Guerra Hoez, Alexis
Rodriguez, Alexy Cantero Pena, Ariel Fernandez Diaz,
Danosky Amad Linares, Julio Cardenas, Kumar Mora, Leidis
Freire Pena, Marc Perry, Michel Martinez Secada, Odaymara
Cuesta Rousseaux, Odays Cuesta Rousseaux, Olivia Prendes,
Randy Acosta Cruz, Reynier Garcia Gutierrez, Ricardo Olbera
Liriano, Sekou Messiah Umoja, Soandres del Rio Ferrer,
Warner Michael Hernandez Duarte and Yuniesky Mezias.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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