“My Crime”, Making pro-freedom music under a dictatorship

This blog recently had a chance to catch up with Julito, independent and dissident rapper from the duo El Primario y Julito, who spoke to us about the group’s new record, an opposition rap agency, the difficulties independent artists face in Cuba and more. 

The dissident hip-hop group El Primario y Julito, based in Havana, recently launched their new album titled “My Crime” [‘Mi Delito’], a production which contains 14 songs, among them the first single “Lambon”, which has been accompanied by a music video.

Julio Leon Fonseca, better known as Julito, explains that “My Crime” is one of his favorite projects to date.  It consists of a number of “protest songs” and others which are more “commercial and reaggaeton-based“.

Among the protest anthems are “Este año si se Cae” [‘This year the dictatorship falls‘], a collaboration with the punk-rockers Porno Para Ricardo, while other invited artists on the disc are Rapper Issac and Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso [‘The Unwanted Children’].  The latter also form part of a new rap agency, along with Primario y Julito, dedicated to making protest music.

This agency consists of 5 rappers who are not allied with any government organization and we work completely independent because we are members of the opposition“, says Julito, “The agency is made up by us – Primario y Julito – and also Rapper Issac, from Santiago de Cuba, and The Unwanted Children, from Bayamo“.

The young musician highlighted the situation of Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico”, a member of The Unwanted Children, who has been arbitrarily detained for more than 2 months, being held in Las Mangas Prison of Bayamo, for making protest music and carrying out civic activities as a human rights defender.

Some artists affiliate themselves with certain musical or cultural groups belonging to the government, but we don’t buy that“, expresses Julito, “we make protest music and we have absolutely nothing to do with government agencies.  If we are going to protest, we will do so with our means, not with theirs“.

He adds, “in reality, this is not a government… it’s a family dynasty which took over the country and has not wanted to let go. This country, this government, has to change…or better said, this government has to cease existence“.

Some of the other 14 new songs are “Gobierno Tirano” [‘Tyrannical Government’], “Triste” [‘Sad’], “Malo” [‘Bad’], and “My Crime“, which is the title track and recounts how the regime classifies these musicians as being dangerous because they write lyrics critical of the system and publicly manifest their opinions without censorship.

This free attitude has cost independent artists on the island quite some reprisals.  Julito says that in the case of his group, “we have been beat, we have been arrested and we’ve been completely censured“.  In fact, Primario y Julito also go by the name “Los Censurados”, (‘The Censored Ones’).

When we started making music as a duo and we launched our first disc, we were summoned various times by the political police.  While in the police units, agents told us we would not have access to any stage and that we would not be allowed to perform live“, recounts the Havana-based musician, “In fact, I still haven’t been able to perform live because of this.  And it’s something I have always wanted to do as an artist, to see how the crowd reacts to my music.  But these things happen under dictatorships“.

Despite the censorship and the prohibition of not being able to present themselves publicly, Primario y Julito still have lots of followers.

“There are many people who listen to us, who know who we are out on the street, especially young people“, assures Julito, who also explains that in order to spread their art, they have to do so through their own means, “burning CDs and handing them out to the population“, while “opposition groups also help us spread our work throughout the country“.  In addition, they have to do record in “home studios” which other musician friends lend them.

He points out that an efficient way to assist artists like them in Cuba is to facilitate their access to blank CDs and USBs.

Our discs are not on sale in Cuba“, says Julito, son of well known dissident and Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo.  However, anyone can buy the new album on their website, www.elprimarioyjulito.com.

Roberto de Jesús Guerra, director of the Havana-based independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’, recently published a video-clip of one of the new singles of the rap group, “Este año si se Cae” [‘This year the dictatorship falls’].

Here we are“, expressed Julito, “My message to other young musicians like us in Cuba is that they join us to keep taking the sentiment of freedom to the people.  Here I am…and we have to keep fighting without fear and taking this protest music against the dictatorship“.


To contact directly with Julito:
Cell Phone: +53-246-070

Gorki Aguila talks independent art, new album and his most recent arrest

 

Gorki Aguila, lead singer of the punk-rock band ‘Porno para Ricardo’ (censored in Cuba, although with lots of fans in the “underground”), chats with this blog about the release of their new album, “El Maleconazo”, and other topics.

Pedazos de la Isla: Gorki, first of all, tell us about your more recent arrest at the hands of the political police this past Saturday 9th of March. When did it happen and why?

Gorki: The arrest took place in the morning when I was leaving my daughter’s house. The police had been surrounding the house since 6 AM to try and impede the presentation of the album which was going to take place in my house, along with an exposition by the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (“El Sexto”). State Security was very interested in keeping that event from happening, not only because the nature of the CD and the exposition, but also because of the recent announcement of the death of Hugo Chavez. Then, they carried out a really exaggerated police operation against me. I was physically assaulted, they used violence against me despite that I didn’t even resist the arrest. They shoved me into the police vehicle and took me to a police unit on Infanta and Manglar. We’ve been there a couple of times before.

PDLI: What happened inside that police unit?

Gorki: These people from State Security interrogated me. Like I said, one of their main interests was for the album launch not to go through. It was that kind of ridiculous dialogue, always asking the same questions and telling us the same threats. The arrest was violent. I still feel pain on my neck, my chest and parts of my back because of how the police treated me…they threw me against the car and shoved my face against the car seat. I couldn’t see where I was being taken.

PDLI: What does this say of the system?

Gorki: When you see that a government does not tolerate an exposition or a simple CD presentation, then I think that’s a very fearful government, a government which fears simple things, like these, cultural and artistic activities.

I was chatting the other day with Reinaldo Escobar, the husband of blogger Yoani Sanchez, and he was joking around telling me that the G2 (State Security) have indirectly become the main promoters of our projects, in this case of our most recent album. Each time they carry out a big show like this, they further promote our CD or our activities, because then more people end up finding out about it.

PDLI: Gorki, tell us about this new album, “El Maleconazo”…

Gorki: Well, I’m very happy with this new album, “El Maleconazo”, because we have achieved a sound with much higher quality. There are all kinds of songs, but mostly songs alluding to the Maleconazo of 1994, when countless citizens took to the street in Havana and protested against the system and in favor of freedom.

We wanted to bring that event back in people’s minds, so that they wouldn’t forget. You know, the way people tell history here is that they leave out very important events that are relevant to this country. We did this to kind of reclaim that sense of civic duty, emphasizing the importance of a civil society, a society which denounces and that has the right to question the regime, to defend many of the things we have lost. To me, the “Maleconazo” is a symbol of activism. I think it was the first time that so many people took to the street spontaneously to demand what is right.

The message of the record is: “MALECONAZO AGAIN, RIGHT NOW“. We need a civil society that demands rights to all citizens of this country.

PDLI: One of the songs in this CD which has been released is “Este año si se cae” [‘This year the dictatorship falls’], which you recently published on Facebook. The sounds are somewhat different than other material by Porno para Ricardo, and it’s collaboration among other independent musicians like rappers Primario and Julito and Omni-Zona Franca. In the song, you mention the “Coalition of Artists against Tyranny”. Is this a new musical group being formed?

Gorki: As of now I can’t say whether or not other plans are going to surge around this, but I would definitely be happy if we have more projects like this, because they are all very talented and creative people. Among them are Primario and Julito, Omni-Zona Franca and also another version we recorded which still hasn’t been released online, with a group called Rebel Youth (a parody of the State newspaper by the same name) and also Raudel of Eskuadron Patriota. I’m very satisfied with the outcome of these projects.

We’ve ventured and worked on a genre completely different of what we are used to, and I’m talking about reggaeton. We have been working on making this rhythm which is very popular, to transmit not only the usual that accompanies reggaeton, like pleasure and dance, but also using this sound, so popular amongst Cubans, to transmit important ideas. We kicked off the record with that song, and then comes the title-track, “El Maleconazo”.

I’m very happy with the outcome of all these recordings. And theirs not just music on this album, there are also interviews we recorded with people who participated or witnessed the events of August 5th 1994. We include their opinions, all kinds of opinions really, and this record has a very smooth, “free-flow” feel. It’s very fast. One track comes on, then an interview, and it all just mixes together and it makes liseners feel like theyre there in the Maleconazo when it happened. I’m satisfied with how we’ve managed to develop the image of this record.

PDLI: What message would you like to send to other young independent artists in Cuba?

Gorki: My message is that it is very possible to do art outside of the Cuban institutions. And that we are here, doing things that can be done, of course always paying a price, but here we are.

I believe that creativity is very valid, although within all these State institutions it’s practically impossible, in my opinion, to make genuine art.

Whoever wants to here this record, here we are, and I guarantee one thing, we are going to keep making the music we want until whenever we want.

Listen to the new single “Este año si se cae” [“This year the dictatorship falls’], in this link on Facebook!

For more information from Cuba, contact: Gorki Águila- Cell Phone: +53-927-726