Cuba: the revolution behind the music

Issue 

By Federico Fuentes and Marina Carman

The latest craze in Sydney seems to be Cuban music. For two weeks in January, the Bacardi Festival attracted tens of thousands of people to Darling Harbour. Many trendy clubs have regular Cuban theme nights.

But de-politicising the music is a must for those companies seeking to cash in on "Cuban fever". Here are few examples of why Cuban culture and music cannot be separated from the revolution.

Example one

The Bacardi Festival was, in fact, condemned by the Cuban government. The Bacardi company has attempted to aid counter-revolutionary forces in Cuba.

Bacardi was one of Cuba's largest companies until the revolution. After 1959, it shifted its production to other countries in the Caribbean. Bacardi supports the US blockade against Cuba.

Example two

The Buena Vista Social Club, a movie based on a Cuban salsa band of the same name, has helped to bring Cuba more into the public eye. But except in the first 30 seconds of the film, in which two old men reminisce over photos of Che, Fidel and the Cuban missile crisis, there is no mention of politics in Cuba.

The film does not explain why the musicians, some of whom are more than 90 years old, are able to live to this age in an underdeveloped country. It does not explain the gains of the Cuban Revolution, including one of the best health systems in the world, which provides care for free.

It does not explain why most of the buildings and cars are old, or any of the other effects of the US blockade on Cuba.

The film fails to challenge, and thus reinforces, the lies and distortions about Cuba: that the people live in poverty forced on them by a dictatorship, and that they would be much better off under a "developed" and "democratic" system like the US.

Example three

Even the Sydney Morning Herald travel section can't avoid politics. A three-page feature on Cuba on February 5 focused on the architecture, friendly people, music and sexy culture. It gave Cuban food the "thumbs down", but then failed to condemn the US blockade.

In fact, the article went on to say that the blockade is in the "wily" Castro's interests. "Castro wants history to record him as David to the American Goliath. Every time a thaw appears in US-Cuba relations, Castro aborts it by sending troops to Angola ... or whipping up hysteria with the Elian protests."

The protests to demand the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba are dismissed: "We witnessed a classic Castro-orchestrated mass protest of 11 million people against the US." How do you "orchestrate" a protest of 11 million people?

Listen to the music, go to Cuba, dance ... and support the revolution.