New Openings for Reggae in Cuba?

Dmitri Prieto

The Cuban reggae band Remanente.

HAVANA TIMES, March 13 — It is symptomatic that reggaeton — the “babylonized” son of reggae — has displaced its paternal rhythm in the media. In addition, confusion has been created about the identity of those two different musical styles.

A few years ago I was in a meeting in which Raudel (the rapper and performer in the Eskuadron Patriota Project) — made a whole plea for the advance of pacifistic non-conformist spirituality in support of reggae and against reggaeton, which he said represented the corruption and perversion of the music that gave it its birth.

In Cuba, like in other Caribbean nations, reggae is associated with Rastafarian culture. As other writers have noted, Cuban Rastas have had few opportunities to come together and cultivate their faith.

Much of this is due to their complex relationship with the law enforcement system here, since we know that their culture makes use of “ganja” (marijuana), while Cuban law forbids the use of that plant.

Nevertheless, it seems that things are beginning to change.

Last year a book by Samuel Fure was published on Rasta culture in Cuba, and a meeting of anthropologists is set to take place this month on African-based belief systems, among which — for the first time — Rastafarianism will be included.

The mass media, including television, is also devoting more space to reggae, its Cuban promoters, and its finest exponent: Bob Marley.

A few days ago, walking through Havana I found at the National Cabaret (based in the centrally located Garcia Lorca Theater) promotional materials around an entire “Rasta Festival” that’s held there every Tuesday night. The place is just a few yards from Central Park, the traditional site where Rastafarians congregate.

The only thing that threw me a little was that the language of the poster (otherwise very attractive graphically) resembled that used in the reggaeton concert advertising that we’re now so used from the PMM productions company.



Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

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