Inti Santana Sings of Everyday Life in Cuba

Osmel Almaguer

Inti Santana.  Photo: lajiribilla.cu
Inti Santana. Photo: lajiribilla.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Inti Santana, 39, is a talented Cuban folk musician who stands out for the quality of his lyrics. In his songs, Santana captures and gives new meaning to the everyday life of the average Cuban.

On occasion, he also uses these everyday portraits as a pretext to explore more transcendental aspects of human existence, to question the past, present and future of our country and to delve into other universal issues.

His age makes him a member of Cuba’s “lost generation” (whose bright promised future collapsed with the fall of the Soviet Union). His spirit, however, places his among those who never stop looking forward.

His constant involvement in new projects and tours, including a promotional 12-concert tour through the Peruvian cities of Lima, Cuzco and Arequipa, attest to this. Santana has also taken part in the Encuentro de la Tropa Cosmica (“Cosmic Troop Gathering”) held in Valencia, Spain, in 2002, a 2007 tour De donde son los cantantes  (“Where so the Singers Come From”), concerts held in several Bolivian cities (as a show of support for Cuban international brigade workers) and in numerous Cuban folk music festivals.

Some of his more popular songs are included in the album titled El riesgo del juego (“Risks of the Game”), produced by Havana’s Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center.

Cubanos (Cubans)

In the cafeteria of the ice factory in Guaso / you can’t get a glass of cold water / the fridge broke down months ago. / The employee responsible for fixing it / booked an appointment with the Minister. / He is number 132 on the list.

The waiter at the bar down the street / no one ever asks him how that problem / in the roof could be fixed. / That’s why he only licks his chops and cons you, / life becomes bitter, salaries are a joke.

Cuban, bro / what you gonna do, / you who look proudly forward, your hands covered in soot, / you, my brother and fellow traveller.

Tomorrow, I’ll walk down G street to see a workshop, / common folk refusing to put on an act / not a boss in sight to lay the law down, not even to tell us how to yawn, / just they, together, deciding how things should be done.

Cuban, bro / what you gonna do, / you who look proudly forward, your hands covered in soot, / you, my brother and fellow traveller.

I don’t want the big piggy bank either / spreading brightly-colored poverty across my country, / but I sing again as a I hear / the falling silences, veiled from so much fear / that makes inert that beautiful word, “revolution.”

Cuban, bro / what you gonna do, / you who look proudly forward, your hands covered in soot, / you, my brother and fellow traveller.

Santana focuses on the real problems people face. In this sense, he is profoundly democratic. He makes clear, through his lyrics, that his criticisms are constructive, not destructive. He does not, however, fall into the traps of politics, which, as we know, tends to be dirty domain.

He identifies with the worker who, their hands covered in soot, pushes the country forward (or, at least, tries to). He is aware of the importance of his work as a musician and the importance every Cuban has in this enormous puzzle we call Cuban society.

Critica el absurdo de la burocracia, el papeleo, la indolencia que se apoya en la falta de responsabilidad, en el pensar que nada de esto nos pertenece, y brinda siempre una salida: gente común sin hacer un paripé / sin un dueño que disponga (…) / ellos juntos decidiendo como se tiene que hacer.

He criticizes the absurdities of bureaucracy, red tape, an indolence born of feeling no responsibility for things, from thinking nothing really belongs to us, always suggesting a way out: common folk refusing to put on an act / not a boss in sight to lay the law down, not even to tell us how to yawn, / just they, together, deciding how things should be done.

Then, he appeals to people’s consciences. He seems to be saying “wake up, for Christ’s sake, wake up!” (Cuban, bro / what you gonna do), that it is time to take the future in our own hands, time to stop reproducing sterile attitudes and repeating ready-made phrases, that it is to time to become aware.



One thought on “Inti Santana Sings of Everyday Life in Cuba

  • I don’t now how you can tell the people to wake up without being political, when this very act is but sheer politics. Politics is not a dirty domain; politics is the purest, most noble of all domains which demands the highest degree of commitment, honesty and disinterest from human beings. Being political means caring about the POLIS, about something else than just yourself and or as Voltaire put it, the cultivation of your own little garden. Real politik, as the German term goes, is the result of most of us relinquishing our right and duty to be political, to exercise our quota of political power and delegating our duties on a elite of professional politicians. I do not know the work of Inti Santana. The mere fact that he cares about his country, does not give up and does his best to phrase a wake up call is enough to make him very likable. However, I believe we have had enough of petty criticism regarding everyday problems as well as of veiled and metaphor-ridden social and political commentary. I appreciate it when authors and artists dare to get their hands dirty (or should I say, clean) with unambiguous political statements, whether in their artistic work or otherwise. Therefore, there is no merit in avoiding politics, if that is even possible. We need a bit more of Escuadrón Patriota and even of the controversial Porno pa Ricardo (musical and literary taste aside). I just don’t think they would be taken on tour around Bolivia.

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