Kamankola on the Musical Bridge from Cuba

Osmel Almaguer

Jorge (“Jorgito”) Lian Garcia Diaz the lead singer of Kamankola. Photo: Yandi Fragela

HAVANA TIMES, June 29 — Kamankola is a Cuban musical initiative of young performers whose principal figure, the rapper Jorge (“Jorgito”) Lian Garcia Diaz, founded the group at the beginning of 2009.

While Kamankola works with a format of five musicians, those positions are not always filled by the same performers; instead, the band is a collaborative effort between various musicians who work for the project for free.

That is what differentiates them from the group Interactivo, whose confluence of artists is due more to a desire to experiment than to economic limitations.  Therefore Jorgito’s work turns out to be something of the musical equivalent to “low-budget cinema,” if it were possible in this case to juxtapose the terms “music” and “low-budget.”

See our interview with “Jorgito”

Kamankola fuses hip-hop, as its foundation, with elements of national and foreign music (including guaguanco, rumba, funk and rock n’ roll).  The fundamental power of this group resides in the lyrics of its songs.  In these lines social existence is approached; “the reality of the day-to-day,” as the musicians themselves affirm.  Needs and shortages of your average Cuban makes them an ideal focus, though without that characteristic obscuring their apparent pride in “being Cuban.”  In fact they define themselves as “youth with the desire to struggle, with a hunger for change, with a lot of things to do.”

They have a CD demo titled Musas desechables (Disposable Muses), though it still hasn’t been picked up by any record label.

“K-rabana” from the CD: “Musas desechables

(Chorus) The caravan is already pulling out, people are already going into a rage, Kamankola’s in show-business.  Blazing a trail.

No fear.  An undisguised prostituting force, alienated from the fool’s voice and giving more, waging war against the most shiftless and greedy. I’m the ringdove, the wooden pigeon.  No fear.  I’m the permanent customer of illegal smuggling, demanding freedom for an expensive bribe.  I have many concepts of rebelliousness, and I don’t plan to fill my philosophy and my environment with irony.  No fear.

(Chorus) The caravan is already pulling out, people are already going into a rage, Kamankola’s in show-business.  Blazing a trail.

“Pa’ lante” (Go ahead on), that’s the panic echoed by our adversaries, a sign of abandonment and rejection by their flock.  It’s a sign that there are a growing number of hungry notes in the verses.  “Pa’ lante,” at your service we force back the powerful ones.  There’s one over there who’s taking pains to resist.  There won’t be any feelings until hoisting my conga flag over their heads.  “Pa’ lante.”

(Chorus) The caravan is already pulling out, people are already going into a rage, Kamankola’s in show-business. Blaizing a trail.

I found out about Kamankola by chance (even today it’s of the music that travels around in the USB flash drives of friends) but when I heard Jorgito he immediately caught my attention.  What I mean is that I found such a musical product highly praiseworthy for an individual attempting to say things through his music – though without a dime and foregoing the classic image of a troubadour wandering around with a guitar in hand while dreaming to one day have his own group.

Jorgito took another path, and apparently he wasn’t mistaken, because though he still remains in almost total anonymity within our country, recently he received a recognition that could mean a great boost to his career and for the band.

It seems he got two nominations for the Puños Arriba Award in the categories of “Best Spoken Word Song” and “Best Video,” and ended up winning the first one.  What stands out is that this victory was achieved in an event in which hip-hop was valued more in its pure form than as fusion, which is characteristic of Kamankola

The song “K-rabana” reminds us of the biblical exodus, while at the same time it has a great deal of youthful passion.  It dreams not of a better world, but of an exodus to a better world, though perhaps something like that doesn’t exist.  But this mini-revolution is nurtured by atypical sources because it uses waste materials, the street, marginalization, prostitution and alienation, not only as elements that integrate the discourse but also as accusations of what exists and what we sometimes turn our backs on.

Their youth gives them a posture that’s almost daring, at least that’s how those inside this same society who have something to conserve might see it.  However, it’s in that same lacking and shortages of everything that the strength of Kamankola resides.  That’s why they seem to ask themselves: What more can we fear?  What else can they take from us?


A Musical Bridge from Cuba: This is an effort to find new bridges that promote communication between peoples of the diverse regions of the planet.     I will be using simple narration in a series of articles to connect with those who are interested in the messages transmitted by Cuban songs, which due to their limited commercial potential and the difficulties posed by their translation, languish in a state of communicational stagnation – despite their being true jewels of Cuban culture.