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COMMENTARY: Cubans love Music; Is ‘real’ Reggae Music finally seeing some light in the largest Caribbean Island?


Photo/Caridad

Views expressed are solely the opinion of the writer, and when of others is clearly quoted, and not (unless specifically stated as such) that of www.nataliemonique.com.

by Natalie Monique

The Republic of Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean (over 11 million inhabitants), having gained formal Independence from the United States in 1902. Cuba has always been known for its rigid Communist regime under Leader Fidel Castro, causing a huge lack of Freedom for its citizens. After Raul Castro became President in 2008, he promised that there would be more freedom in Cuba, of which there has been progressive changes. Though slow in movement, one can say there seems to be a ray of hope. There are still major restrictions for example, Computer ownership/Internet use and Travelling to name a few, and there is still a high rate of Illegal Emigration. However, the island does boast a highly rich Culture (understandable being a highly multi-ethnic region), offers the best worldwide healthcare, a 99.8% literacy rate and a lower infant death rate than most developed countries, but many of the benefits are not equally distributed.

A huge part of Cuban Culture is Music, right now various types of Music though not definitively known as Genres are enjoyed more in the island. Besides Cuban produced Music, local Cuban musicians also tend to adapt worldwide Popular Cultures such as Hip Hop, Reggae, Reggaeton and Rap, while still maintaining their own vibe through content and lyrics representing current Social and Political issues.

Approaching the 1990’s, Cubans began listening to Reggaeton, a ‘form’ of Reggae Music (blending Reggae, Electronic and Latin beats) which many original Reggae Lovers feel can never come remotely close to the authentic and meaningful Genre. Reggaeton is mostly popular in the Latin American Culture and spreading to other regions especially where Latin American communities exist, I would be lying if I say it doesnt get me moving. There is nothing more satisfying and relaxing even somewhat holistic, than some real, unadulterated Reggae Music seeping through your body. However, I think its great when persons try to emulate this beautiful Genre, I’m all for diversifying, creating an eclectic blend, mixing cultures, as long as the original is still maintained and respected…I do agree however, we can never say it is actual Reggae Music:)


Holding Cuban and Jamaican Flags – Photo/Caridad

Some Cubans have actually criticised Reggaeton as being ‘too explicit’ and sexual, and publicly yearned for Reggae, and original Reggae lovers there have made efforts to push the actual genre, however limited by Resources and support. When say Reggae, I am not referring to Cuban Reggae, which is a mix of Hip Hop, African Beats and Reggae, but the original ‘Jamaican born’ Reggae. In Cuba, Reggae is largely associated with the Rastafarian culture, as is in many other societies, hence Reggae is represented and promoted by the small cross section of Rastas in Cuba. Reggae? We all instantly think of the Jamaican King of Reggae, Bob Marley who was a convicted Rastafarian, spreading Reggae Music worldwide, touching the lives of persons from various races, cultures, age and class.

Most of the Rastas and Reggae Musicians reside in in the Eastern part of Cuba, where it is believed mostly Jamaicans live, and a huge Caribbean influence exist. However, Cuba does not permit the ‘public’ Rastafarian practice, namely smoking Cannibis, which is considered a main part of the faith. There has been controversy as Reggaeton is more popular (not without criticism though) than Reggae, the original genre from where it was even created. There are a few Reggae bands/artistes in Cuba, main ones such as Remanente and Paso Firme, and others on the rise still trying to keep the genre alive.

I recently bumped into an article in the Havana Times, where the author Dmitiri Prieto said he met with Raudel, a local Musician who pleaded for ‘the advance of pacifistic non-conformist spirituality in support of reggae and against reggaeton, which he said represented the corruption and perversion of the music that gave it its birth.’ He also highlighted the fact that Rastas are unable to freely practice their belief due to Law enforcement.

Check out this Documentary trailer, directed by Susanne Moss ‘Ras Cuba’:

He mentioned that the Mass Media has also been airing more Reggae promotions and even Bob Marley which is a good sign for the well loved Genre. To highlight progress, he also made reference to a recently published Cuban book ‘La Cultura Rastafari en Cuba’ (Rastafarian Culture in Cuba) by Cuban Researcher/Author Samuel Fure Davis. I also came across another interesting online narrative by Fure wrote back in 2005, ‘Lyrical Subversion in Cuban Reggae’ and and his in-depth ‘Reggae in Cuba’, a presentation at the University of the West Indies, UWI, Jamaica. Prieto also mentioned an upcoming conference on ‘African-based’ beliefs of which he says will include the Rastafarian Faith, for the first time.

Reggae means different things to different person, to Cubans it is synonymous with Rastafari. I am not a Rasta nor smoke Marijuana, (not every Islander smokes meds by the way), but those who know me well, KNOW I deeply enjoy the natural mystic/outdoor vibe, nourishing and healing the body with herbs, seeking knowledge, eating organic and healthy AND I am an avid fan of my Island’s Reggae and Dancehall Music! Despite what Reggae means to you, we here at nataliemonique.com are determined to keep this island gem of a genre alive and taking the authentic Caribbean culture to the World:)

We love the move, the word is getting out…Free Up Reggae maan! Its not ‘just’ Music, it is a euphoric experience! We may like Music, but everybody needs a little Reggae!:) Who better to explain what Reggae is all about than the King of Reggae himself: (Watch Videos below) Feel free to comment/share your thoughts:)

NEW!! Audio: Controversy brewing over what should be the Official ‘Jamaica 50’ Theme Song?

by Natalie Monique

Jamaica 50 is fast approaching, and in addition to all the pending events and activities lined up to mark this commemorative date (August 6, 2012), Jamaica 50 organizers have released the Shaggy-produced ‘On A Mission’ Jamaica 50 track, believed to be the official theme song. Controversy has started to surface however, as questions are arising as to whether the Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell produced ‘On a Mission’ recently released or Mikie Bennett’s ‘Find The Flag’, released in 2011 should be the official Jamaica 50 song.

The Official Jamaica 50 Facebook page posted that, “It was agreed that while the Jamaica 50 Secretariat had produced On A Mission to support its new marketing campaign, it had no intention of identifying any one song as the Jamaica 50 song.” However, Observer sources say Grange is insisting that the Secretariat recognise ‘Find A Flag’ and examine ways of utilising it during the celebrations.”

Despite the organizers disclaimer and the fact that current Minister of Culture, Lisa Hanna and Opposition Minister Babsy Grange, still have not come to an agreement with the official song, Observer sources confirmed the Secretariat launched an official radio premiere for ‘On a Mission’ last Friday. They also have a contract with Kentucky Fried Chicken using the song as their official campaign song and customers can also get a free CD with their KFC meal purchase.

‘On a Mission’, was produced by International Grammy Award winning Orville Burrell aka. Shaggy, and features top local Jamaican artistes such as: Damian Marley, Assassin a.k.a Agent Sasco, Chevelle Franklin, Beres Hammond, Romain Virgo, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Wayne Marshall and Tessanne Chin.

‘Find A Flag’ was written and produced by Veteran Music Producer and songwriter, Mikie Bennett and released in December 2011, also featuring top Reggae artistes such as Freddie McGregor, Damian Marley, Capleton, Assassin a.k.a Agent Sasco, Tarrus Riley, Konshens, Natel, Bunny Rugs, Chevelle Franklin, Vegas, Ken Boothe, Dean Fraser, Admiral Bailey and Stitchie.

Sources say Bennett and the artistes involved are hurt over the issue, as much time and effort was put into the production. Bennett said the tag line, ‘Find the flag (in your heart and wave it)’ was developed through a friend who gave this advice to his son who just graduated from High School and was unsure about his future. He added that though he knows it is a political issue, he has no intention to divide the nation at this time and has already started making proposals to private entities who may want to use the song during the celebrations.

Shaggy spoke with the Gleaner (below):

Both songs involve very talented local artistes, many who were actually featured in both songs and bringing their own vibe. Listen below…which do you think should represent our 50th Jamaican celebration?

Watch Reggae Sumfest [On Demand] LIVE from Jamaica!! July 21st-23rd


by Natalie Monique
For all folks unable to make it to down to Jamaica or Montego Bay for the huge Annual Reggae Sumfest this year organizers have extended access to the ‘Greatest show on Earth’

Starting tonight July 21st- July 23rd, Reggae Sumfest Online Tv will stream the popular International Night 1/2 and Dancehall Night, LIVE Pay-Per-View, US$14.99 for the entire three nights or US$5.99 per night. This year the show headlines American Hip Hop artiste Nicki Minaj and a host of local Dancehall and Reggae acts.

See the performance lineup below:

DANCEHALL NIGHT, July 21st

Beenie Man Danielle aka. DI
Mavado Jah Vinci
Bounty Killer Ikaya
Vybz Kartel Future Fambo
I Octane Chan Dizzy
Assassin aka. Agent Sasco Toya
Elephant Man Seanizzle
Aidonia
Kip Rich
Konshens
Cecile
Spice
Khago
Tifa

INTERNATIONAL NIGHT I, July 22nd

Beres Hammond
Half Pint
Tanya Stephens
Christopher Martin
Richie Loops
Paul Elliot
Iba Mahr
Prophecy
Belinda Brady

INTERNATIONAL NIGHT II, July 23rd

Nicki Minaj
Jah Cure
Wayne Wonder
Gyptian
Protoje
Chalice
Cherine Anderson
Hezron
Denyque
Laza Morgan
Ashley Martin
Trudy (Booty Dance Competition)
Turbulence
George Nooks