“I hope this festival takes place annually like back in the good ol’ days, to recover what was lost,” commented one rapper.
HAVANA TIMES, March 5 — The hope of reinitiating the Havana Rap Festival, which recently returned to its traditional location at the Alamar Amphitheater — like in the early and most glorious years of the visibility of the hip hop movement in Cuba — was noted at the outset of the evening.
The first day, the music activities kicked off at 10:00 p.m.
The first group was “Ruta 11,” two experienced rappers. They were able to impact and move the audience with their rap with R&B. Offstage, one of them noted, “Hip hop in Alamar still has respect. I liked the heterogeneity of the crowd, which is recreating the high points of the old Alamar Festival.”
Following that was “Melito sin Semilla,” a Rasta raper who dates back to the beginnings of the movement. He “flowed” with reggae and lots of spirit.
Next was “Testamento Sano,” followed by “Bajo Construccion” (Under Construction) who stirred the public with their explosiveness. Each member held a pressure cooker in one hand, while one had an old radio hanging from a strap and another had a big yellow comb stuck in his hair. Dressed in yellow raincoats they shouted, “Like beans in the microphone, this is going to explode like a pressure cooker.”
Explaining their name, offstage they said, “From the underground, we want to re-construct the pillars of hip hop in Alamar, which right now is as beat up and broken down as this amphitheater.”
“DSUR” took the stage and bowled the audience over, another explosion, with several projects in one. One song went: “Trying to be independent and you see that you can’t be, you try…learning to say what you want…trying to be independent…bettering yourself, and even if you find that you can’t, you keep trying – you can’t lose faith.”
Another one rapped, “If you’re a chardo (black) you’ll be saved if you have family in the right place.” In another one, commenting on the currency in which workers receive their wages, the rappers expressed: “The people hate you…how could you lasted so long being so weak…”
The rapper “El Brujo” (backed up by Amehel) came on with the group “Spokenword Destierro” to do the rap “Is the Enslavement of My Freedom What Makes Me Think like This,” followed by “Soro” who rapped “What Does ‘Talk’ Mean,” dedicated to Mumia Abu Jamal.
“No Borders” sang “Causa y Efecto” (“Cause and Effect,” named after that universal law). Later came the rappers “Crazy de Mente.”
El Puro MC of “Spokenword” fired off the lines, “The community isn’t quiet, it doesn’t sleep…it’s not dumb, not deaf, not blind…Who do you think you can fool so easily…Me? – who’s still here in this heat…in times of scarcity, with customs that are no longer seen. Where’s the equality you’re hiding in your wallet… They’re screwing you. You’re screwing you.”
The duration of Spokenword’s performance reduced the numbers in the audience however.
“Chamaco” (another adept rapper), while offstage said: “It’s an honor that the rap festival has returned. You can see how people identify with the artists. In the end it’s for the community. I’m willing to give 100 percent as my contribution.”
While the rappers took their turns, at the back of the stage there were also the graffiti artists Yuri Garcia, El Flecha, Osmani, Grupo Indice, Yasser Castellano and Rodolfo Rensoli, who were all creating another mural.
When “Chamaco” took the stage, a wire began to smoke. Because of this — though contrary to the intentions of the organizers of this festival “K con Kende” — they had to end the event due to that technical problem.
But people! Despite that conclusion, it was interesting that a good number of people turned out at that abandoned facility – even though it was put on with a low budget and little promotion (flyers, a few radio ads and word of mouth), despite the inconsistency of an uncommitted DJ, and regardless of having to rely on background music made by rappers themselves in “creole” (home) recording studios and the poor conditions of the Alamar Amphitheatre (which cast some doubt on the ability to put on good performances).
Moreover, those who showed up weren’t just the rappers and their followers. In the audience were adult faces among the majority youth and people from culturally diverse backgrounds: rastas, repas (salsa/reggaeton fans), and even a few mikis (Cuban preppies).
In the end, the reality in part surpassed what was expected. The fact that the festival was held at the traditional site of the old festivals conditioned the events.
The rappers supported each other on stage and in the audience with an atmosphere of community and the consciousness that they had to give their all. Though most of the rappers were novices, they were keenly aware of the need to have their own festival.
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