Rock in Cuba, Rock for Humanity

Carlos Fraguela        

The rock group Nirvana.
The rock group Nirvana.

HAVANA TIMES — Rock and Roll – a genre that is justifiably celebrated as “the music of the 20th century” – was born in the 1950s and didn’t take long to win over the hearts and minds of those people mature enough to appreciate it at the time (though, as always, there was also no shortage of those who did not understand the phenomenon and rejected it outright).

Though I didn’t listen to much rock music in my teens, I never once said I didn’t like it. I knew it was a question of taste and the fact I wasn’t yet prepared for that kind of music, that I hadn’t discovered the genre yet.

It wasn’t particularly easy, either, as, for the longest time, the Cuban media simply pretended this music didn’t exist. People had to secretly tune in to radio stations from abroad to listen to real rock music.

Better late than never. Today, when I am slightly more mature and the genre is no longer banned in Cuba, I consider rock music, in all its forms, to be the most complete form of music out there.

I never did feel satisfied listening to Cuban music alone. I knew there was much more out there and no sooner had I turned thirteen than I began to look for other kinds of music. Thanks to a Soviet-made, Selena-brand shortwave transistor radio, I found it.

Today, though my hearing isn’t as sharp as it was when I was younger, I enjoy rock music immensely and every song I listen to becomes a masterpiece for me, a means of enjoying the beauty of sound as such. I am sometimes amazed at the marvelous things human beings have been inspired to do by the magic of music.

The emotions music can awaken are even capable of healing the ill. I believe music, in addition to being one of life’s greatest pleasures, is an excellent, pain-killing medicine.

One of my best friends once shared an anecdote with me which shows that even an expert can make a misguided judgment about music.

Once, during an interview, Cuban maestro Leo Brower said that rock wasn’t real music. I imagine he later regretted having said something so preposterous. Because, folks, if you haven’t discovered rock music yet, you’re not yet enjoying life to the fullest. Go back and give rock another shot.

I am no music expert. I am merely blessed with a keen ear, and I am able to see that rock is the music of humanity, to say this without denying the magnificence of classical music or of any other of the many genres human beings have given birth to around the planet.

The language of music is so transparent that even the illiterate can be moved by it. For me, it is one of life’s blessings, and I can see why there are those who prohibit certain kinds of music: it is clear to me that music can become a means of liberating oneself, of helping people express themselves and come together as one.