[Marxism] Juventud Rebelde looks at "Mala Leche", censorship, and more

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 31 05:55:51 MDT 2007

Mary Murray's MSNBC report on "Mala Leche" and censorship.

Mala leche Case

Changes yes; changes for the good of all

Privileged by the taste of young Cubans, the group directed by Nassiry Lugo 
marked his maturity with the record Alma sin bolsillo. 
By: Rufo Caballero 
Email: cult at jrebelde.cip.cu 
October 27, 2007 00:11:40 GMT

A CubaNews translation by Ana Portela.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.

The most recent production of Nassiry Lugo is a notable mark of

I don't deny that before and with several singles, the talent of
Nassiry Lugo and his group, Moneda dura, was evident. Fans collected
their songs and recordings anxious to share interesting ideas on
today's world, the intelligence of the compositions and, why not, the
wit and high degree of communication of Moneda dura, began earning a
privileged place in the taste of young Cubans.

But it is the consensus of the critics that Alma sin bolsillo (2007
production of Alejo Stivel and EGREM) is a sure sign of maturity in
the work of the group. Also, strictly from a musical point of view
(greater subtlety of harmony, by opposing and blending the linearity
of the melodies; a better use of the loop effect, etc.), but, above
all, for its force, veracity and depth of most lyrics included in the

Alma sin bolsillo has beautiful subjects such as Los ojos de Aitana,
a tender song that Nassiry dedicates to his daughter; Yo soy el rey
where the story of a loss of love serves as an excuse to delve into
social relations; Háblame de amor, where he champions, from beauty to
the harshness of his rap; even a conventional ballad well composed
such as Al sudeste which is so popular on the radio. Now, the record.
Two tracks seem particularly relevant: Y no hago nada and Mala leche.

Y no hago nada is a more intense ballad, much more so than Al
sudeste. In that song Nassiry deals with the impotence of some young
people - and not so young - who grew up one day according to a group
of values and will continue to grow with those values but they
suddenly find in the street a love that can cost five, ten and
fifteen dollars, on the low side. The lyrics are simply spectacular.
The subject of the ballad can only share their uneasiness and
impotence. He adores her but she leaves. She leaves after legal
messages of love, as Serrat would have said. We listen in Y no hago
nada: But my love cannot buy you a plane/ My hands are not enough for
your illusion/ I just look at you and let you go, and do nothing/ And
it is just that my love is blind and not your stomach/ My love in
time was lost/ I only have you and let you live/ And I don't do

My kingdom for this ballad. How much uncertainty we often feel, those
who give priority to the spiritual values of people and, in reality,
often is not with us. Y no hago nada is a beautiful testimony of the

As is, in its way, Mala leche. In Mala leche we would have to
distinguish among the accidents of the words and the spirit and deep
philosophy that gives breath to the subject. The words comment, from
the grace of humor and the disheartened power of the parody, dozens
of problems in the lives of Cubans today: the bus which doesn't show
up, the blackouts (much less, thank God), the electricity bill which
shoots up, etc., etc. All of this, although true, is secondary aside
from the main idea of social problems, the black holes of every day;
we don't add the poor treatment, the abuse, the "mala leche".

It calls on the best Cuban tradition, regarding solidarity,
fraternity, unselfishness: We come from a unique lineage in the
world/ We are warm and it burns deep inside/ Tell me, why don't we
treat each other like brothers 
 Ending with an emotional verse that
explains it all: My heart beats when they call me a Cuban. This verse
is the feeling of thousands of Cubans in this world: aware that only
honest and profound criticism can improve society, without
complacency, without triumphalism, fighting and standing on tip toe
to prevent anyone from stepping on our heads; but here, with our own,
sharing in the lot and future of Cuba, that is our disease and our
illusion, a love that goes beyond everything.

The video for Mala leche simply gave view to this spirit. Nassiry
appears like a showman where other known singer-songwriters go
through constant transformations in their videos. Using few visual
effects, in a careful work of postproduction, the video comments,
with enormous sympathies and a full play of cultural references, on
the many hallucinating situations which the subject describes. And it
concludes placing emphasis on what was to the point: No to the mala
leche! This video became, due to the inventiveness of his imagery and
deep seriousness that presupposes his statement, Nassiry Lugo's best
audiovisual work.

It would be naïve to hide the discussion provoked by Mala leche.
Several colleagues considered the video inappropriate, excessive even
statements like this: "There is vulgarity from the very title of Mala
leche." For me I don't know how far the ghost of vulgarity will
reach; how long will we continue to deny the legitimate source of
popular slang, expressions common among Cubans (in this case it is
extended throughout the Spanish world). Although, of course, that was
not the criteria to ban the video but was the failure to understand
the willingness of prophylaxis and social criticism that is obvious
in the subject. There seem to be two possible positions: hide, bury
problems; or discuss them with transparency and with firmness.

I am not going into the reasons which, at one time, disqualified Mala
leche. I don't share them at all, but I respect them. It has nothing
to do with inverting exclusions or even less revanchism. The
colleagues who do not like Mala leche have every right in the world
to also express and defend their opinions. Where I do want to call a
halt is in the legitimacy of the procedure that achieved, in this
case, that the video be transmitted, analyzed and debated with total

Let's put aside the den of iniquity, of slander and cheapness that
the Internet has become in other discussions, which end up with
personal remarks, political reprisals and all lacking in moderation.
The digital forum which Mala leche has provoked on the Intranet was
characterized from the very beginning by frankness, clean and
intellectual honesty. From the first comment signed by a young
producer (emotionally entitled, "By which Cubans?") to statements of
other prestigious directors such as Lester Hamlet, Ian Padrón, Pavel
Giroud, Orlando Cruzata, et. al., more than a dozen messages of
solidarity expressed by top ranking personalities of Cuban culture,
this debate was typified by its class, its genuine cultural content,
its high esthetics. There is always an intemperate person who takes
it up but that is not the norm.

Result: effectiveness of reflection, continuity of open and sincere
discussion in important institutions of Cuban culture and finally,
the transmission of Mala leche where it belonged aside any other
video interested in thinking of our reality. The Mala leche case
points to several things: one, we should not keep quiet and bow our
heads to all; two, we must know how to discuss with responsibility
and culture, with an attitude of contribution and ethics. And, three,
there are things that are definitely changing in this country and we
must be aware of these changes.

Left behind are the times that defense of the sovereign project was
an excuse to prevent necessary changes. What threatens the project of
sovereignty is lies, irrationality, and the betrayal of simplicity. I
think that today there are many more who defend sovereignty from the
point of view of necessity and change: No to change which destroys
achievements and moves backwards and playful form. Yes to a change
which opens doors, that is the dynamics of Cuban mentality, which
aspires to a more participative society where everyone is listened to
with respect.

The change that fights against Mala leche holds us from moving

Changes yes; changes for the good of all.

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