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Cuban rappers criticize government in rhyme at Summit

Cuban rappers criticize government in rhyme at Summit
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY 12:06 a.m. EDT April 11, 2015

PANAMA CITY – Cuban rapper Skuadron Patriota paced the stage and
dedicated his next song to his mom – and moms everywhere who have lost
sons to street fights or perilous raft trips from his island country –
then launched into his signature spitfire tune, Madre.

“Tolerance zero, of zero … State control to the
extreme.”

Cuba’s historic entry to the Summit of the Americas here has also drawn
many of the communist island’s critics, including a rare Cuban hip hop
protest concert Thursday night. The event took place in a theater just
off the Panama Canal and gathered known rappers from the island such as
Skuadron, Sivito El Libre and David D Omni.

Omni, who calls himself an “artevista” or art-activist, said he was
harassed at the upon his arrival by Panamanian agents,
who warned him not to make trouble or he’d be back to Cuba, a
complaint echoed by other Cuban dissidents in town for the summit.

Still, he said was excited to share a stage with other Cuban rappers
whose lyrics denounce the Castro regime – an event that would be near
impossible to pull off in their home country. He said Cuban rappers are
unique because they’re less concerned with the material trappings that
U.S. rappers tend to glamorize and instead focus on social issues and
everyday life.

“Cuban hip hop is different,” Omni said. “You know you’re not going to
make money. You rap because you have something to say.”

Over the past decade, Cuban hip hop has been one of the main forms of
expressing dissent on the island. But it hasn’t been without its
controversy. A report by the Associated Press last year alleged that the
U.S. Agency for International Development attempted to recruit hip hop
artists to foster unrest among the country’s youth, a charge the artists
denied.

The hip hop artists have continued to put out music, often shared
through amateur videos on YouTube and many denouncing the Cuban
government. Few other artists, singers or political dissidents have been
criticizing the Castro government as explicitly and forcefully as Cuban
rappers, said Adolfo Leyva, a history professor at Florida State
’s Panama campus and an organizer of Thursday’s event.

“These people are the ones pushing the envelope,” he said.

At the concert, the rappers took the stage in front of a wall flashing
images of the Cuban flag, Cuban highways or Havana neighborhoods.
Several of them called for the release of artist Danilo Maldonado, known
as “El Sexto,” who was jailed by Cuban authorities in December for
attempting to release two hogs in a public square scrawled with the
names “Fidel” and “Raul” – Cuba’s iconic leaders.

Gorkí Aguila, front man for Cuban punk band Porno Para Ricardo and an
outspoken government critic, played a solo set, including a song mocking
Cuban Raúl Castro, in town for the summit. “I’m here because …
well, any chance I have to denounce the Castro government, I’ll take
it,” Aguila said on stage to cheers from the crowd.

One of the headliners of the event was rapper Silvito El Libre, who’s
father, Silvio Rodriguez, is a renown Cuban musician and favorite of the
Cuban government. As his son’s rap concert got under way, Rodriguez led
his own concert across town, sponsored by Cuban authorities.

Lounging outside the theater before the show, Silvito said he doesn’t
like to talk about this father. But he said he hopes improved relations
with the USA lead to real changes on the island, something that’s been
elusive for years.

“I think the Cuban government should hand over control to the new
generation, to new ideas,” he said. “So far, we haven’t seen much change.”

Source: Cuban rappers criticize government in rhyme at Summit –
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/10/cuba-rap-concert-summit/25592337/

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