Passion: what does it mean? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, passion is defined as: “a strong and barely controllable emotion”. Humankind has expressed passion in multitudes of ways for as long as humans have possessed communication skills. Through art, science, literature, music and even politics humans have showcased passion. Passion can be either supportive or oppositional. Music has been the greatest medium for humans to express passion, due to the great range of emotions that can be realized through song. Due to the high level of passion felt in both music and politics, politically-themed music has become a marriage made in heaven.
There are untold numbers of songs and musical genres that have become rally anthems for political movements around the globe. One region in particular, due to a unique blend of passion for music and politics, has become a hotbed for politically-charged music: Cuba. The histories of music and politics in this tiny island nation are so intertwined that one cannot do any amount of research on one topic without finding information on the other. Music in Cuba has a long and rich tradition that can be traced back to Africa. Politics in Cuba also has a long and rich tradition that can be traced rearward to Spain. These traditions include a clash between two different cultures, predominately Spanish and African, that have dominated the island. Another important aspect of Cuban political history is the tradition of slavery and the fight for freedom from slaves. Due to the interlocking nature of music and politics on the island of Cuba, many political movements have been influenced by music and vice versa. Beginning with the early history of Cuban music and politics, a timeline can be drawn towards the current anti-government hip-hop movement in Cuba. Today hip-hop in Cuba is undoubtedly a very powerful force for independence and the freedom of expression. By looking back into the history of Cuban music and its interaction with Cuban politics, we can create a foundation to help us understand the current state of the Cuban anti-government hip-hop underground movement. By telling the histories of Cuban music and politics independently of one and other a background knowledge can be obtained, which will facilitate the analysis of the Cuban hip-hop movement.
1. History of Cuban Music
To begin to understand how music and politics are so closely tied in Cuba, one must first understand the history of music in Cuba. This understanding of Cuban music history is crucial because Cuban music was born and matured in a constant state of political unrest, which led to a unique blend of art and politics.
1.1 Traditional Music of Cuba
Traditional Cuban music has its roots in African music, brought over by slaves from West Africa in the 18th century. While the roots of Cuban music are in West African rhythms and storytelling lyrical styles, the Spanish musical tradition of...