Cuban Band Leader Commits Musical “Suicide”

A recent photo of Robertico Carcasses from the Interactivo Facebook page.

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES — Popular jazz-fusion band leader Roberto Carcasses said a few improvised lines at a concert on Thursday night that will most likely cost him his career in Cuba.

Robertico’s group Interactivo were the closing act at a nationally televised concert held at the Anti-imperialist plaza in front of the US Interests Section in Havana.

The occasion was a government conceived event to mark the 15th anniversary of the arrest in the United States of the Cuban Five, and a call for their immediate return to the island.

So what did Carcasses add to his personal call to bring home the Cuban Five, considered national heroes? A report from AP stated:

Carcasses, the 41-year-old leader of the Cuban jazz-fusion combo Interactivo, sang about his desire for “free access to information so I can have my own opinion…”

“I want to elect the president by direct vote and not some other way,” he continued. “Neither militants nor dissidents, (we are) all Cubans with the same rights.”

“And an end to the blockade,” he added, in reference to Washington’s 51-year-old economic embargo against Cuba, “and to the self-blockade,” which critisizes what many consider unnecessary roadblocks the system has put on itself.

Concert on 12/9 in support of the Cuban Five.
Concert on 12/9 in support of the Cuban Five. Photo: Ladyrene Pérez/Cubadebate.

Then, more in line with the theme of the event, Carcasses gestured at the US Interests Section behind the stage and exclaimed, “Free the Five Heroes!”

The controversial lyrics coincide with criticisms by both supporters of greater participation and openness within Cuba’s socialist system as well as those dissidents who believe the system must be totally gutted.

Affordable and domestic Internet Access, a revamping of the Communist Party controlled media, plus a general freedom of expression and association are points that the government has refused to allow despite its economic reform process.

AP added: “The concert was the crowning event of a government-sponsored yellow ribbon campaign to raise awareness about the Cuban Five, who were convicted in 2001 of spying on U.S. military installations and exile groups.

“Cuba maintains that they were only monitoring violent exile groups to prevent terror attacks on the island, and their imprisonment is one of Havana’s chief grievances against Washington.

“Fans packed the so-called Anti-Imperialist Plaza at the foot of the U.S. Interests Section Thursday night to hear more than a dozen performers. One after another, they demanded freedom for the four agents still behind bars.”


The reprisal against Carcasses have already begun. Robertico “has been separated from the music industry” for an indefinite time period, reports Café Fuerte.

Roberto Carcasses, left, and members of Interactivo.
Roberto Carcasses, left, and members of Interactivo from their Facebook page.

“They called us to a meeting yesterday at the Cuban Music Institute, where we were told that Roberto is “separated from the industry” for an indefinite time period. That means he cannot perform solo nor with Interactivo at any State facility”, informed the Interactivo Facebook page on Saturday morning.

“Shortly after the message disappeared and it only mentions that the group suspended its scheduled performances Saturday at the Café Jazz  Miramar and next Wednesday at the Bertold Brecht Café Theater. The reasons were not given,” noted Cafe Fuerte.

“It was like an earthquake that caught everyone off base”, commented a member of the technical support team in charge of the broadcast of the concert. “I still can’t believe that it [Carcasses’s lyrics] were broadcast to all of Cuba.”

32 thoughts on “Cuban Band Leader Commits Musical “Suicide”

  • Losing their fan base is one thing, death threats and being blacklisted from radio stations owned by government supporters is another. I don’t agree that they should have to self-censor for their fan base. In an ideal world there shouldn’t be any consequences of expressing an opinion, but all this shows is that you have intolerance in every country.
    As far as Robertico is concerned he should have the right to disagree in a public forum. I think his comments were heartfelt but a bit clichéd. I always think that people who position themselves right in the centre and say on the one hand this… on the other this… haven’t really put a lot of thought into anything. Also, maybe it wasn’t the right venue in that it was a bit divisive and deflected from the campaign for the five. But I do acknowledge his right to say what he said and hopefully as the latest reports indicate, the decision will be reversed. And if he puts any music out there I will be buying it.

  • To start with it wasn’t me that made the comparison between the two incidents. I was merely responding to the assertion that nothing happened to the Dixie Chicks as a consequence of criticizing the government and the war. In fact they faced quite a lot of intimidation and financial loss. The only comparisons I would make is (as below) that both show intolerance (of a different kind) and that for the artist being unable to play or have airtime is hardly different if it comes from a state institute or from radio stations and venues owned by supporters of the government.
    Secondly – I don’t know why you are ignoring the death threats, intimidation and blacklisting etc. Surely the fans who remained loyal also have a right to hear the band. In one way you are right that people are allowed to choose which artists they support but in another way people are morally obliged to be tolerant. I certainly wouldn’t not buy a Britney Spears album on the grounds of her support for Bush. How far do you want to go with this right, is it acceptable for people to organize a boycott of Jewish shops for example.
    Thirdly this wasn’t an action by the government, but by officials in the Cuban Institute of Music. Not everything that is state owned is “the government”. From the latest reports it appears that the governments has in fact stepped in to reverse the decision.

  • Dear Mr Conspiracy nut,

    A few points of order
    – Marxism is a failed ideology (just look around)
    – Fred Hampton, Eugene Debs and the Wobblies are foot notes in history, if that.

    next you’ll be reaching back to Julius Cesars assassination and blaming the FBI for that too.

    You lost, we won, get over it.

  • There is a notable difference between the GOVERNMENT BANNING you from performing, and loosing popular support from your fan base. Intolerance is indeed intolerance and I personally disliked the backlash, but that was just another form of freedom. The freedom of a group of people(the fan base) to not support the Dixie Chicks. The Dixie Chicks should have realized who their fan base was.

    By the way dani, shouldn’t Robertico have the same right to disagree in a public forum as you so evidently do?

  • Oh come on! Civilians shot from a military helicopter, operated by by agents from a foreign power conducting an illegal invasion, the only justification for which was built on a body of lies, and which has left that country in tatters – and you blame the victims! If a foreign power did that to your country, wouldn’t you be feeling a tiny bit angry right now?

  • For the record, many of the people blacklisted in the 50’s when accused of being Communists, were in fact members of the Communist Party.

    Some people may not think that the Communism was a real threat to the United States in the 1950s. But the fact is the Soviet Union had taken over Eastern Europe & North Korea where it installed Communist dictatorships. The USSR helped Mao’s Communists gain power in China. The USSR also had a strong influence in Western European Communist Parties, and there had been a series of high profile espionage cases in the West exposing the degree of penetration by Soviet agents. There was indeed a “Red Threat” to Western democracies.

    In fact, we would not be here freely discussing this history if the Western governments, in particular the United States, had not recognized the threat and fought back.

  • Dan, are you daff? There are Marxist journalists all over the country. The problem is their views don’t sell newspapers. As a result, they are not widely known. You see, in the US, the media is in the public domain and not controlled by the government. As a result, popular ideas and viewpoints are what is published and failed and outdated ideologies like Marxism are marginalized. McCarthy-era ‘blacklists’ were, albeit tragic, a result of the decisions made by privately-owned movie studios and radio stations and individual concert promoters and club owners. The government did not prevent anyone from performing or acting. Yes, I am a black man and no, I do not know who you are talking about. But if he wasn’t featured on BET or MTV, I probably would not have heard of him. If the best he could do was a flatbed truck as a stage, he probably wasn’t very good anyway.

  • You’re right, J Edgar Hoover loved MLK. That’s why an FBI man was on the scene w/in minutes of his death.

  • Really. And just how many marxist journalists can you name in the US ? Artistic freedom of expression during the McCarthy years ? Ever here of the blacklists ? And you, if you are a black man, give me the name of the black artist who was denied a US passport to leave this country to perform in Canada and had to do so from a flatbed truck on the border.

  • ” gunning down of civilians from a military helicopter for sport”

    The version of that video originally released by Wikileaks showed a selectively edited sequence of events. The full video clearly showed armed insurgents shooting at US troops, the use by a journalist of his video camera to peer around a corner as an aid to the insurgents, and the use of an ambulance to transport armed fighters.

    Assange has been charged with sexual assault by the Swedish authorities. Manning & Snowden broke their oaths of service, which is a crime.

    What law did the NSA break when tapping foreign phone calls? There is no law on the US books against such practices.

    By the way, what do you think the Cubans & Soviets did from their large radio installation at Lourdes? They listened into US transmissions.

    Furthermore, the agents of Cuban state security routinely tap the phones of suspected dissidents in Cuba. All perfectly legal under Cuban law of course.

    For an accurate comparison with what Roberto Carcassés did in Havana, you might ask, what would happen to an America musician if he called for free elections and freedom of speech in America?

    it would be a non-event, as the US already has free elections and freedom of speech.

    And that’s the point!

  • Do you really not see the difference between public-inspired censorship and government-imposed censorship? If the buying public chooses to blacklist an artist because of unpopular or undignified actions, it should be their right to do so in a free society. I certainly choose what artists I will support with my hard-earned money. On the other hand, it is not the role of government to deselect one artist and not another based upon their individual political views. What happened to the Dixie Chicks is a reflection of what their fan base thought about their actions. What happened to Roberto Carcasses reflects the Castro regime’s need to control the message. No comparison here.

  • Excuse me but it was you who made the comparison. But no, I don’t think there is much difference in being blacklisted by the Cuban Institute of Music and being blacklisted on US radio stations. Intolerance is intolerance — every country suffers from it in one way or another and each needs to tackle it.

  • Actually, Assange, Snowden and Manning exposed criminal behaviour committed by US agents who were never prosecuted for their crimes, such as the gunning down of civilians from a military helicopter for sport, and the illegal tapping of information belonging to private citizens and ‘friendly’ foreign powers by government spies. That’s why they have been silenced, and in far more brutal ways than Mr Carcasses has been subject to.

  • Martin Luther King? Now you’re going off the deep end! Nice try though…but no cigar for you

  • If you are suggesting that Cuba be given a free pass on individual liberties because the US, for example, endured ‘McCarthyism’ you need to take into account that at all times during the US ‘dark side’ there remained a process by which dissenters could lawfully air their grievances without fear of consequence. A free press, the right to public assembly, and even the freedom of expression by artists to name just a few. Cuba differs in a dramatically different way. The Castro regime prohibits freedom of expression AND prohibits contesting what is prohibited. See the difference?

  • They’ll do fine, as long as they don’t make any difference. If they start to, they might end up dead like Martin Luther King or Fred Hampton, or in jail like Eugene Debs or the Wobblies. What was the purpose of COINTELPRO ? Maybe you should change your first name Informed.

  • It’s the perfect strategy, and one that the anti-Cuban crowd refuses to acknowledge: take a small, underdeveloped nation trying to break free of imperialism, subject it to 50+ years of invasions, terrorism, sabotage, defamation, unprecedented economic and political aggression, and then hold it to the highest standards possible for civil liberties. Be sure to avoid all unfavorable comparisons with the US, i.e. don’t discuss the dark side of the US record on the very same issue when the US was under incomparably lesser threats.

  • there was a popular revolt against the band but that is a FAR cry from government manipulation. However I am not surprised you can’t tell the difference, or disingenuously try to draw a parallel. Two other notable US citizens who actively criticize the US government…indeed make a living out of doing so.
    – Noam Chomsky
    – Michael Moore.

    How are they faring eh dani? Pretty darn well I would say

  • Wow! So original and right on topic!

  • Assange has been charges with 2 counts of sexual assault in Sweden. Snowden & Manning broke serious laws by stealing & leaking classified information.

    Carcasses called for free elections.

    Can you see the difference? Millions of Americans are free to critisize their govt everyday and face no repression or harassment in response.

    That you attempt to draw an equivalence underscores your lack comprehension of basic ethics.

  • Nothing happened .. hardly. There was a boycott launched by Bush supporters which made their record plummet in the charts, they lost sponsorship from Lipton, their promotional partnership with the American Red Cross was cancelled, they were blacklisted from playing, they were removed from radio playlists, they were shunned by other artists, two disk jockeys were suspended for playing one of their tracks and a campaign was launched to smash their records and cds with a bulldozer.
    So intense was the criticism that they were forced to make a grovelling apology to President Bush for disrespecting the office of president. Even that wasn’t enough – they also faced death threats and the electricity was sabotaged by government supporters at one of their concerts. Even an advert for a innocuous documentary about the group was banned from NBC. Honestly, if you were trying to find a good example of tolerance and free speech you couldn’t have chosen a worse example.

  • Another proof that the Cuban regime is a dictatorship and that all changes are cosmetic. No freedom of speech for Cubans as long as the Castro regime is in power.

  • Do you really think the US government does not come down hard on its dissidents? Most of the time they can rely on their right wing media to dish out the defamation and vitriol for them, but when that fails, there are always the trumped up charges and prison sentences they can use to really make the point. If you don’t believe me, just ask the Assanges, Mannings and Snowdens of the world.

  • USA/Cuba Embargo=Terrorism American Style

  • A contrast can be drawn between the authoritarian censorship in Cuba and the freedoms found in the US by comparing a Dixie Chicks London performance in 2003 in which hey vilified then president George W Bush with Carcasses relatively benign comments. In the case of the Dixie chicks….nothing happened. In the case of Carcasses, well we can all see what’s happening.

    How can th Castro apologists support this kind of repression. At least come out and acknowledge that there is no freedom to speak you mind in Cuba.

  • Why are the Castros so thin-skinned? Where are all the apologists now? Will Carcasses be accused of being a paid CIA agent? Shall the regime’s over-reaction be justified by the stale and overused excuse that US policy towards Cuba is the cause of this siege mentality? If every American performer were castigated for speaking their mind against the US government during their concert, there would be no more rock ‘n roll. At the end of the day, this is yet another example of why we say there is no freedom in Cuba.

  • I’m sharing here a comment I wrote in a Facebook dialogue with other people regarding one of my friend’s posting on Havana Times about musician Roberto Carcasess : I can see in these comments people caring some how about Carcasses’ situation. I hope that his current predicament translates into more than just another of the many opinions that we fill up our Facebook walls with. In the past when cuban writers, journalist and other artist have dare to fight for freedom of thought and expression their colleagues in the international community have come forward to support them. What about us musicians, and specially those whose artistic status grant them a voice of influence. Roberto needs official public support right away before the self indulgent Latin American leftist come down on him and brand him as a “gusano”, pro yanqui, or any of the other obtuse and favorite categorizations they love throwing around to keep themselves numb from many aspects of the political cuban reality. Any thoughts?

  • Robertico Carcassés made himself a little more free in the island prison of Cuba with his improvised declarations! He has picked up fans all over the world and much respect!

  • Same ol, same ol! No true freedom in Cuba. This….this is the REAL Cuba

  • cuba needs more freedom of expression. tired of hearing only from raul and fidel. and it is obvious that they are hiding the facts about the Paya “accident”.

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