Cuban Folk Musician Charly Aliaga: A Bit of Catharsis

Osmel Almaguer

Charly Aliaga. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Charly Aliaga is a folk singer from Cuba’s eastern province of Granma whose songs cast a critical glance at the problems we face, using the city, the country’s institutions and daily life as his main referents.

In 2002, he joined the band Nubes de Bayamo as the lead guitarist and singer. Three years later, he founded the band Zero, whose music incorporates elements from folk, rock and country music.

As a member of Zero, he has participated at different folk music and culture events in Cuba, such as Holguin’s Romerias de Mayo theater festival, the Longina National Folk Music Festival in Villa Clara and the Al Sur de mi Mochila festival, among others.

He was the lead guitarist on the song EPD Golondrina, in the album La voz del Diablo Ilustrado (“The Voice of the Enlightened Devil”), produced by Cuba’s EGREM record label.

He has shared the stage with renowned musicians such as Carlos Varela, Santiago and Vicente Feliu, Linn Milanes and others. He has also done music videos and is a member of the Hermanos Saiz Association.

Churches, Governments and Prophets

For all who dream, for everyone who believes / in what they see, to those who continued on their way / and didn’t care, for those who are here and those who have left.

For all reasons, politics, whores and spongers, / for those who wrote their names in a notebook, / to all those who want to screw us over.

To all governments, managers, bisexuals and wimps, / to those who traded their bodies for a Coca Cola, / to those who sought a way out, hanging themselves while waiting in line, / I dedicate this song.

For all prophets, to Democritus, Pythagoras / and Aristotle, Preface, Zenon, my old man, the gods, / rockers, addicts, priests and writers.

For all churches, the seven candlesticks and / the forty thieves, / the three musketeers, the thousands of nations, / the twelve disciples, to midnight / I dedicate this song.

This is a magnificent example of how a song can appear to be profound without being so, of how countless cultural referents can be used without metabolizing these into a unified vision (which does not mean, of course, that the author lacks such a worldview).

Two possible intentions could potentially exonerate the author here (when all is said and done, a work’s shortcomings aren’t the last word): catharsis and irony. It is our task, then, to sniff out those elements that could suggest these in the lyrics. The first intention is clearly present in the enumeration of references. Enumeration is almost always synonymous with intensity, and the author himself affirms that the song is addressed to those who want to screw “us” over.

This process of enumeration also gives us the impression, though this is not necessarily the case, that the song is addressed to humanity as a whole – that is to say, that it is an act of catharsis that involves all of humanity.

The “us” (which I have intentionally placed in quotation marks) always denotes an ideological posture. The “us” differentiates one group from another. The question is what groups the author has in mind, as they are not defined. I don’t know which group I’d be in, because the author does not clearly state his position. Another question that puzzles me is: why address the song to bisexuals? Whatever it is, the first intention is clear.

As for the second intention, the only element that raises suspicions (and I am being deliberately specific) is the fact that those the song is allegedly addressed to have all been thrown into the same sack. Might the author be commenting on the possible risks of comparing people?

A little bit of protest, a whole lot of catharsis and a tad of irony in this song by Charly Aliaga at least serve to show us that not everything is fine, that we are unhappy – though that’s something everyone knows.

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