“If my flag ends up being torn into small pieces some day, our dead, raising up their arms, will still know how to defend it,” -Camilo Cienfuegos.
I cite the above phrase because it’s used in a reggaeton music-video titled “I Believe” by Yoandys Lores – better good as “Baby Lores.”
My intention is not to get into a superficial debate about why this figure -so popular with reggaeton fans (of whom there are many)- has so drastically “veered” in his ideological outlook, as has been announced by certain media sources.
“The main characteristics of the works of Lores have been street talk and vulgarity, hostility without a cause, disguised in a tough guy image with the glitz provided by foreign musical models. This is expressed in the superficiality of his lyrics, which water down popular culture, and in his violent stage performances,” pointed out one commentator in August.
Instead, I want to comment on the political message that is ultimately left with the Cuban public.
But before anything else, we should look at how the Cuban dance-music scene interprets the song ‘I Believe’ and its music video, which is broadcast on radio and television programs by those who previously denigrated Lores.
Another such source wrote, “According to the author himself, the song is dedicated to Fidel Castro and is a clear definition of his position regarding the political process being shaped in Cuba.”
They continued by saying, “His lyrics today show a certain maturity, always adjusted to the aesthetics and codes established within his musical ‘environment’… He surprised everyone with an unexpectedly principled position that vivifies the debate and expands the shades of controversy”… dealing with issues “like opportunism, the treatment of symbols, irreverence and rebelliousness, participation, the role of cultural institutions…, etc.”
Seeing it this way, many would say that there is no criticism that is worthwhile. Moreover, this would raise the consciousness of people toward thinking that is critical of the real-life situation. But there’s another reality, one exemplified by a law school student at the University of Havana who commented, “I have to say that when I saw the video I was pleasantly surprised. My words on art genuinely committed to its time and its people, came to me like an epiphany… It’s too bad videos like this aren’t seen more often.”
When reflecting on that position I only had to recall certain words that I’d read in that same publication: “The Cuban nation and the sociopolitical forms chosen by its people are not the exclusive patrimony of anyone, only of those who decide to defend and enrich them.”
It is here where I found disastrous contradictions that aggravate our weaknesses. Whoever has listened to the song “I Believe” will remember these words:
“With my bad boy grace,
I’m going someplace.
I’m down with my belief,
in my commander-in-chief…”
“Truth’s not learned
simply by drill.
If you don’t like that,
you better just chill.”
“With your screwing around
and your so-and-so.
You don’t like it here?
Fine, then go!
Cause later, here,
you won’t wanna show.”
“… this is revolution – with and without reason.”
Beyond the exaltation of the homeland, this song combined with its crude love-it-or-leave-it symbolism and playing on with the words of Camilo Cienfuegos- rigidifies the country’s present lack of criticism, temerity, participation, tolerance of any mistake, etc.
This music does nothing more than exclude people who think differently while strengthening the status quo, which is nothing other than the prevailing bureaucracy that mines the Revolution from within.
From alienated reggaeton (which splits up people, breaks them into factions, and dehumanizes them while promoting elitist social relations) Lores is now moving toward social chauvinistic and paternalistic reggaeton, obviously without breaking from that same logic. It’s no coincidence that the video is titled “I Believe.”
Did I by any chance find some critique with respect to this in the Cuban press? Nope. Apparently he has been assimilated with complete naturalness.
A great part of Cuban society at the moment lives submerged below the tidal flow of reggaeton, which only reflects degrees of social alienation marked by growing fetishism, tough guy machismo (“guapería”), sexual degradation, increasingly worse for women, expanding groups of lumpens (“underclass” elements), etc.
(To be continued…)