HAVANA TIMES — This past Saturday, June 22nd, Estudiantes Sin Semilla (“Seedless Students”), a reggae band from Havana, threw a concert at the Parque Almendares amphitheater, in the city park known as the “Havana Forest” (“Bosque de la Habana”). Though I’d gotten the flyers announcing the concert only the night before, I was, luckily, able to attend.
The band members, Sandor, Melito and Yamile, committed Rastafarians, have been working with dedication and love for about six years to move their art forward. With rap and reggae backgrounds alike, they write their own songs and are already working on their second album.
A number of songs from their first album were performed at the concert. These included: “Pennyless People” (“Gente sin dinero”), “How Much More of This?” (“Hasta Cuando”), “Living with the JAH” (“Viviendo con el JAH”), “Raise the Flag” (“Levanta la Bandera”) and “The Revolution” (“La Revolucion”), the title track.
The songs are critical pieces with hopeful messages, such as:
“So many people strugglin’, strugglin’, gettin’ nuttin’ in return…without money but with love…nothing to warm themselves with except the moon…So many people gettin’ early out of bed ‘cause life if tough, but God is always there to help. So many workers working with their hands, getting nothing in return.”
“How much more of this are we going to stand? The system will continue to lie and cheat us, making wars and nothing more, division, falsity.”
“The people: without ideas, without benefits.”
“Bring out the love hiding in your soul. Come closer, don’t lose faith. Believe in Jah Rasta, he does not lie. One path, one destiny, one God. You and I, alone, can conquer fear.”
This first album was produced by the independent label G-19 (“Garaje 19”). The label launched “Pennyless People” this year. It also produced the concert held on June 22nd.
Despite promotional efforts, very few people attended the concert. Apparently, “Cubans don’t have a lot of time” to participate in these activities, owing, perhaps, “to the way life has changed”, and the fact young people generally look for places “that close after 10 pm”, which is not the case with this and other official State venues.
The fact the park amphitheater is “too far”, geographically speaking, from other venues, placing attendees who want to continue partying after the concert too far from other potential sources of entertainment, may also explain the small turnout.
Garaje 19, based in the garage located in front of the home of one its members, worked diligently in Havana’s peripheral neighborhood of Alamar (putting out a new record by a new artist every 15 days) until recently. Apparently, the label had to move from its place of operations for reasons beyond the control of its members.
As for the concert, well folks, it was quite a blast. The band’s numbers kept the public off their seats and dancing the entire time. There were people dressed in the colorful attires characteristic of the Rastafarian culture and flags waved with the African liberation colors with the image of Bob Marley. Estudiantes sin Semilla is a promising band. We can only hope luck, and Jah, will continue to open doors for them.
Note: Manuel Bas, a performer who has combined ballad and reggae traditions, and Renovancion Urbana (a rap duo) were invited to perform at the concert.