Marginalized, Not Marginal

I had never been interested in hip hop.  With Los Aldeanos, it was love at first sight.  I was impressed with the intelligence of their texts, and because Los Aldeanos are “the voice of those who persevere and who suffer in silence.”

Against the flow from start to finish, their music and videos are broadly distributed among the public which follows them, who in turn make copies for friends, creating a network which has made them into the best known unknowns in the Cuban musical environment.

But what do Los Aldeanos have which distinguishes them from other groups of their type?  It’s a winning combination: good selection of backgrounds, nice voices used well, they’re veeery good at rapping, they have stage presence and their texts reflect both book-learning and intimate real-world knowledge.  Although famous for their rebellious lyrics, Los Aldeanos are much more.  They have texts like For if tomorrow, Let the heart speak, I’m the one, of high conceptual and ethical value; Fuerzas Armadas, takes rap to another level.  And they even have beautiful love songs: You will always be with me and Sometimes.

Los Aldeanos are living their legend.  Revolution, a documentary about them presented in the recently completed Exhibition of Young Producers, was subjected to the same type of censorship applied in 1990 to the film Alice in Wonderland.  (Trusted people are given the day off from their regular jobs to fill the theater and leave no room for those who are really interested.) But it doesn’t stop.  The documentary receives a prize and the president of the jury, the prestigious director Fernando Pérez, maintains his vote despite the position of the ICAIC authorities.  That ignites excitement about the documentary.  And I didn’t have to wait long.  Yesterday, my son brought Revolution home from school, censored for theater and video, but travelling happily in iPod, Flash, CD or mp3 copies.

If any of you are old enough to look at young people from a distance (and with nostalgia!), when you hear talk of Los Aldeanos, don’t be put off by Aldo’s dreadlocks, don’t be put off by Bián’s piercings, don’t be put off by the tattoos they exhibit when they sing with bare torsos.  And don’t be put off by the scatological words either.  To quote them: I have the truth and the street is mine.

Translated by Phyllis Schoenberg