Iskander Talks Los Aldeanos y Cuban Conscious Hip-Hop
Los Aldeanos is leading the new generation of rebel music in Cuba. Since 2003, this collective has operated from within the confines of a tyrannical dicatatorial regime and made conscious hip-hop records that call out Fidel and his henchmen. It's music that reflects a starving, oppressed, but still deeply musical Cuba.
This Sunday, the crew makes its first stateside concert appearance thanks to the City of Doral's Gisela Hidalgo and President Obama's relaxing of American policy toward cultural exchanges with the Cuban government.
We spoke to documentary filmmaker, Havana's own Iskander (AKA Alejandro Moya) about what this music means to the people. See the cut for a collection of his comments.
"The music passes hand-to-hand. The youth, not professionals, most of them ... They rip it, pass it hand to hand.
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"It's like an alternative internet that exists in Cuba. A lot of information in Cuba is transmitted this way. It's a viral thing, this method of transmission of information in Cuba.
"The origin of hip hop as a social phenomenon is similar in Cuba as it is to the United States.
"In Cuba, it's called hip-hop consciencia and the most vocal members of that movement are Los Aldeanos, Silvito el Libre, Escuadron Patriota. They are in a beautiful moment of such great creativity that they are changing the national color of the country.
"These prolific young creators and composers, they are mobilizing so many youths, and forgive my repetition, but they are changing the national consciousness of the country. They want to construct something positive in Cuba. The origin of that is conscious hip-hop.
"Los Aldeanos and Silvito el Libre are a national emblem and the thousands of followers they have in Cuba are an incredible voice. And it's through their own distribution and promotion that is all underground. This is more potent, more real, and stronger than the Ministry of Culture in Cuba.
"There is a new revolution occurring in Cuba. The destiny of this revolution? Who knows. Nobody knows. For us, the inevitable outcome is victory. For us, who participate in this, the only thing on our mind for this movement is victory. It's a revolution occurring spontaneously, naturally, with historic inevitability because the youth who are 20-something years old in Cuba are doing honor to the history of their country.
"The youth want something else. They have all the preparation. They're scholars. They have all the schooling. They're ready for something else, something much greater.
"After this tour, where they'll make the United States aware of themselves, they're going back to Cuba. We're not immigrants. We are people who live in Cuba. We left Cuba and we're going to back to Cuba. This is not a program for immigration. They are going back to Cuba. I am going to Cuba.
"They are number one in Cuba. The music is not on Cuban radio. It's not on television. But it is still the most listened to music. They are listening to Los Aldeanos in all parts of the country, all through hand-to-hand. They are Cuba's most popular artists.
"There is something very Cuban about exchanging music, and sharing songs. So cuban hip-hop is totally grounded in sharing songs and in seeing them performed live.
"There are clandestine concerts in the island. In lugares del esato sin permiso del estado. In state venues without the state's permission.
"Cine acapulco ... They did a show there, like, four months ago for the first time ever. Without promotion, but surely it took the people by storm. There were people waiting outside just to listen to what the people had to say about what they heard inside.
"You have to see it to believe it. It's changing the whole panorama.
"And it's almost all by word-of-mouth. And it's all over the country. It all starts with the telephone. Not the cellular. The telephone. The landline. In Cuba, the communications system takes on another form. We have more limitations than many places in the world. But the reality is that information travels with an amazing velocity, and the people mobilize quickly. One calls the other.
"A crowd of hundreds can gather from one moment to the next.
'It is an organization that is happening without a system. But it functions. And the network that is being established transcends the geography. It goes to Miami. It goes to Europe. Without a doubt, it is happening.
"I can tell you one thing: If the mass of people behind conscious Cuban hip-hop were to go today to the Plaza de la Revolucion there would not be enough room in Havana for all of them. There is nothing bigger than this happening in Cuba right now. There is nothing more popular than this.
"This is real. It's not fabricated by the media. The youth is almost religiously devoted to this movement.
"It's interesting because the people into this are not getting drunk. They're not doing drugs. The events are basically pacifist in nature, although the songs are portrayed so energetically that it appears violent to the outsider. In reality, the concerts are high, sublime, and peaceful.
"It's incredibly emotional. You will see November 14 in Dade County Auditorium. There is no other way to describe it. It's something so lyrical. The act is so profound that you don't even know the difference between the artist and the crowd. There is no separation. It is a total connection. The difference between the crowd and the rapper does not exist.
"Miami is the most important place Los Aldeanos can play because it is Cuba, because it is so full of Cubans. If in Cuba the cannot play for the Cuban people, then in Miami they can. They can do so without a problem.
"And it's all a reflection of the decrepitude of the system. With all the opulence that there is, you cannot deny the viccissitudes of a Cuban butcher shop. The youth are sounding the alarm."
Los Aldeanos with Silvito El Libre. Sunday, November 14. Miami Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $37 to $147, plus fees. Visit ticketmaster.com.
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