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Music Bridges to Cuba: Calle 13, reggaeton con clave

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, music Add comments

Next Tuesday, the Puerto Rican band Calle 13 will be in Havana playing at the Tribuna Anti-Imperialista. They are often branded as reggaeton, but many of their tracks are a sort of ecclectic mix of styles that at times reminds of Manu Chao and other Latin hybrids. Although they follow on the footsteps of Juanes and other pop and rock bands that have gone to Cuba in recent times as part of a “music bridges” trend, the visits by Puerto Rican musicians have normally considered “something else” (de un pajaro dos alas, etc). Most notably, Fania All-Stars played there in 1979 as part of the famous Havana Jam (facilitated by the thaw of  the Carter administration). Then, however, Cuban youth were said to be more interested in Billy Joel and the Weather Report (also part of the festival) than in salsa, according to the New York Times

More recently, Cheo Feliciano played in Varadero (in 1997), and a project called De Aqui P’Allá and De Allá P’Acá attempted a musical exchange between the two “wings of the bird”  But I don’t recall anything as massive as what a Tribuna Anti-Imperialist concert promises to be; a type of super concert that has been mostly hijacked by Anglo-American rock and pop (and Juanes), genres that have come to enjoy a respectability in Cuba that Latin genres like reggaeton are still far from getting.

Today the “heavy” type of reggaeton is tremendously popular in Cuba, much to the dismay of the cultural authorities. In fact, prejudice against reggaeton runs high, not only in Cuba, among the bien pensante educated middle class but also in exile. Calle 13’s trip, while not provoking the massive opposition that Juanes did, has been criticized in exiled circles, particularly after the duo showed on national Spanish language TV their ignorance of the plight of Cuba’s political prisoners. Comments in blogs have put down reggaeton musicians (as Calle 13 are often considered as such) as ignorant, and mocked the music as a genre for the uneducated masses, in a way that is reminding of what  timba and, before, rumba, had to contend with. In Cuba, furthermore, reggaeton is often critiqued by the cultural intelligentsia as a commercial import that has nothing to do with the island’s musical heritage (son).

The fantastic documentary La Clave (2009) is built around the opposite thesis: that reggaeton (at least its Puerto Rican variant) is a direct product of salsa music, with its sophisticated clave and arrangements. A whole generation of reguetoneros -who are musicians of the new digital generation- are paying tribute to their salsero forebears, who are happy to collaborate with them, both in concert and in recordings. HERE is a segment of La Clave worth watching, with Andy Montañez and others showing the many points of encounter between reggaeton, bomba, and salsa.

Calle 13 come from the ecclectic Puerto Rican reggaeton tradition depicted in La Clave (they call it “urban music”). Not only they work, in most songs, over a clave base, but they also feature social and political lyrics very much like those in 1970s salsa. They call for pan-American solidarity, chronicle the plight of migrants, and highlight life in the barrio as their primary source of identity. The have recorded with a variety of Latin American musicians, including Rubén Blades, who they have branded as their maestro (see the video clip for their Grammy winning La Perla, which pays homage to the great Puerto Rican singer Ismael “Maelo” Rivera, who used to sing his “Guaguancó para La Perla”).

This is a video clip, corresponding to their 2007 song about Latin American migration to El Norte, which they performed at that year’s Grammy awards along with the Cuban group Orishas. The video clip is an anti-imperialist manifesto with an “anthropological” look. It also features a sort of pan-American geography that cuts from the Altiplano Boliviano to the US/Mexico Border without a pause. (I would call it “a post-modern geographical pastiche”)

12 Responses to “Music Bridges to Cuba: Calle 13, reggaeton con clave”

  1. Ethno Cuba » Blog Archive » Music Bridges to Cuba: Calle 13 … | Reggaeton Music Says:

    […] Read the original here: Ethno Cuba » Blog Archive » Music Bridges to Cuba: Calle 13 … […]

  2. Berta Says:

    Si, good observations, in a way, his name “Residente” already cituates PR as part of this larger post-modern, even post-national? territory you are referring too. Also, Calle 13 has a pro-indigenista rhetoric maybe different from other reggaetoneros… more on the side of the (Chavez o Bolivar?) America Bolivariana…

  3. jabulin Says:

    calle 13’s lyrics resemble more no me pises que llevo chanclas than manu chao, except in this remake you show here. chao’s tunes seem a bit more diverse to me, richer than calle13’s. most of calle13/residente lyrics are just fun, witty and provocative in many ways. compare that to the daddy yankee or tego calderon. or the catchy wisin & yandel. calle13 seems to have more international connections (if you were to look at their 2009 whereabouts) than all the other pueltoricans. i’d recommend the song with la mala rodriguez (suerte con el 13?) – but that’s just me. te parece?

  4. Santiago - diseño web Says:

    Me encanta Calle 13

  5. Walter Curso Guitarra Online Says:

    Calle 13 lo mejor, y lo que más me gusta es que se preocupan por la gente!

  6. ghd straighteners Says:

    If the existence of music has meaning, it was necessarily anti-Nazist and anti-political in that circumstance. Therefore, serious musicians had to make their positions clear.

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  8. arquitectos en cordoba Says:

    Que lindo grupo musical, los felicito calle 13!

  9. Paisajista Says:

    me encanta esta banda es una de las mejoressss.. me gusta mucho las letras de las canciones!!

  10. Posicionamiento Web Says:

    Soy fanático de Calle 13. Viva Cuba!!

  11. Posicionamiento Web Murcia Says:

    Hey Etnocuba,
    Neat Post, Hi! I am starting to write a novel called: ‘Musica es la lengua solamente universal’ (Music is the only universal language. It is based in Cuba, and the main character is a girl (10 yrs old at the start of the book) called Adalia García. What do you think of this for an opening:

    I sat, swirling my feet in the warm, smooth water of Batabanó, breathing in the smells of bananas and coffee that lingered throughout. I watched the fishermen casting their lines and drawing them in, their faces smitten with the days catch-each fish wriggling and completely unaware of their fate. Their broad movements swung the line so far, that I winced every time, afraid it would catch me! I watched in awe, as they drew their line in once again, shouting ‘Vale! Tengo otro, tengo otro!’- ‘I have another. I have another!’. The excitement in their voices seemed as though it echoed through every window, tunnel and narrow street in the town as they ran to each other, and untangled the wriggling fish, desperate to break free. They held each one tightly in their hands, to stop it from diving back into the water- a two man job. As I sat, I could hear the fast chords of the Guaracha music reverberating through the tunnel, and as I rose, it became louder and more enticing than ever. I swung my legs back over the side of the bridge, and jumped down, my feet landing hard on the warm stones. I grimaced a little at the pain, but shook it off almost immediately. I stopped to listen again, and I let my feet carry me towards the beautiful array of guitars, that sat against the sign, pointing to ‘Café La Mina’. As I drew closer, I could feel the music in my bones, and every step I took was to the beat of the guitarras, until my feet were sore from the hard ground. I was deep in rich coffee aromas and the fruit from the market, fresh and warm, tingling my nose. People flooded in front of me, all of them tall so I could no longer see, so I stooped down low, and wove in and out of them, until I could almost touch the guitars that stood in front of me. The musician looked at me, and smiled. I smiled back, still engaged in the alluring music that he was making, wishing i had a few pesos to place in his plaid hat set before him.

  12. artvencedf Says:

    Esta es una de las pocas bandas que saben aprovechar la música p 😉

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