Cuba Rap Festival Returns to Alamar

Dmitri Prieto

The Kende-K cultural project announced that the Rap Festival takes place this coming weekend., Feb. 24-26.

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 21— Alamar, a heavily populated city on the eastern outskirts of Havana, mostly urbanized with five-story project-like buildings and inhabited by workers, will again be the host of a major Cuban hip-hop festival – just as it was in the legendary decade of the 1990s.

From February 24 to 26, the “Festival de Rap de Invierno 2012” (the 2012 Winter Rap Festival) will be held in that community. The event is being described as the “rescue of a community movement in the neighborhood that previously hosted the [Cuban Rap] festival in its early years,” according to a press release issued by the “Kende con K” project and published on the Critical Observatory blog.

During the day on Friday (February 24) are symposiums on “The Historical Memory of Black and Mestizo Cubans” and “The Relationship of Hip-Hop to the Culture Industry, Racial Identity, Racism, and Cultural Institutions and Policy.”

Then on both Friday evening and Saturday, novice rap groups will be presented in the Alamar Amphitheater, the historic seat of the Cuban hip-hop movement in its infancy.

The closing of the event is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Sunday (February 26) at the neighborhood casa de la cultura (cultural center) at Avenida de los Cocos, Zona 7, Alamar.

The event’s promoter, Rodolfo Rensoli, told Havana Times that on this occasion the program will be including more than 50 groups, mostly newcomers who have emerged from the neighborhoods.

Almost all those groups that auditioned were selected to participate, he explained, which will result in the rappers’ verses having wider thematic diversity, though social issues prevail.

“We’re witnessing the outcome of a new level of autonomy of Cuban rap, but without it producing imitations of already famous groups like the Los Aldeanos,” said Rensoli. According to him, this is due to the proliferation of spontaneously created venues where rappers are promoting and sharing their work.

Along with Balesy Rivero (who is also one of the organizers of the upcoming event), Rodolfo Rensoli was a founder of the 1990 Cuban rap festival. This effort was promoted by GrupoUno, a famous collective of alternative artists that, in Rensoli’s view, has now “passed into history.”

He is currently in charge of the “Kende con K” cultural project, which operates out of the Municipal Department of Culture of East Havana. “Kende” means “crazy” in the African language of Carabali that is used by the Abakua, a men’s secret society that continues to function in Western Cuba.

In the landscape of Cuban hip-hop, Rensoli considers himself an advocate of its community and neighborhood-based character and activism, as opposed to the logic of the marketplace or centralized institutions.