Cuban Folk Musician Oscar Sanchez and His Proletarian Routine

Osmel Almaguer

Oscar Sanchez.  Photo: eltaburete.wordpress.com
Oscar Sanchez.  Photo: eltaburete.wordpress.com

HAVANA TIMES — Oscar Sanchez (Holguin, 1986) is a young and accomplished Cuban folk musician who has enjoyed much acclaim on the island’s stage. He was awarded the Noel Nicola Production Scholarship, which involved the recording of a live concert in Cuba’s A Guitarra Limpia (“Nothing But Guitar”) venue, for his piece Abrir camino (“Clearing the Path”). He was also granted the Arbol que Silva y Canta (“Whistling and Singing Tree”) National Folk Music Award in Baguanos, Holguin, and the Hermanos Saiz’ Venga la esperanza (“Awaiting Hope”) Award in 2007.

He graduated from the Jose Marti Perez Art Instructors School, where he obtained a diploma in Visual Arts. He has participated at different music events throughout the country, including the Pepe Sanchez International Folk Music Festival in Santiago de Cuba, the Romerias de Mayo Festival in Holguin and the Longina National Gathering of Young Folk Musicians in Santa Clara.

His lyrics, a combination of the humorous, intimate and controversial, question Cuba’s and the world’s reality with an unusual degree of intensity.

Proletarian Routine

The horn swallows up the morning silence and spits it out as fumes, / the sun lights up the bare, brick wall as people head to work.

The neighbor turns on the radio, tic-tac, tic-tac, / the bus stop is full of people, / the bus hasn’t arrived, patience is running out.

The woman standing by the traffic light has options, / but the bus and my legs do not, / the seconds hand advances, the silence thickens with expectation, / and the insect-faced city exhales carbon monoxide, / and electricity, while nothing moves in a straight line, / and dialectics crash.

I want my house free of such latent, sad truths, of that basic proletarian routine
I want my house free of such latent, sad truths, of that basic proletarian routine

The woman standing by the traffic light has options, / but the bus and my legs do not, / the seconds hand advances, the silence thickens with expectation, / and the insect-faced city exhales carbon monoxide, / and electricity, while nothing moves in a straight line, / and dialectics crash.

I want my house free of such latent, sad truths, of that basic proletarian routine

I want my house free of such latent, sad truths, of that basic proletarian routine

The horn swallows up the morning silence and spits it out as fumes, / the sun lights up the bare, brick wall as people head to work.

The neighbor turns on the radio, tic-tac, tic-tac, / the bus stop is full of people, / the bus hasn’t arrived, patience is running out.

Not much patience remains, / not much patience remains.

The song is inspired by the daily routines of Cuba’s working class. The neighbor, the singer, the woman who asks for a lift at the street corner, all are faces of the same thing: different ways of facing up to the need of earning one’s daily bread. These people begin to run into obstacles from sunrise: the lack of public transportation, power cuts, water shortages, car fumes the noisy streets of a modern but underdeveloped city. Chipped walls, fumes, dirty streets, and people overwhelmed by this harsh environment.

The singer looks at this stifling tableau and sings: “I want my home free of such latent, sad truths, of that basic proletarian routine.” When he says home, I believe he refers to the city, the province and the country. He sings convinced of the usefulness of its virtue.

Structurally, the lyrics of the song move in circles. More than a circular structure, the song presents us with a symmetrical arrangement that helps reinforce the impression of a vicious circle, the singer’s impression that he cannot break out of that circle.

The ticking of the clock in the neighbor’s radio may be an allusion to Cuba’s radio station Radio Reloj, but it may also be a time-bomb about to explode. The bomb is the patience that, as the author says, is quickly running out.
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