Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: For years I had a hard time deciding between writing, painting or dancing. It was writing that proved to make the most sense financially in the short term. I live in Alamar, an aborted project for a city that only breathes from what’s left of nature, from the alternative cultural scene, and above all, from the infinite will of the human soul. I’m not a journalist. Writing in HT has been an opportunity to say what I believe can be improved in Cuba.

Unlimited Reggaeton in Cuba

Veronica Vega

A study of anatomy. Illustration: Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — As well as dengue fever or Zica, Cuba is suffering the scourge of another unknown virus that has become a plague: reggaeton.

You mustn’t underestimate the power of noise. It travels through space like an overwhelming invasion and it doesn’t need to ask for any bureaucratic red tape or permits. It resounds in your head, in your brain, whether you like it or not. It throws the subtle limits of being an individual out the window and is completely immune.

And even though there are regulations that deal with volume that you can turn to, the legal process is complicated and can lead to serious resentment between people.

Most people ignore the law, or prefer to put up with it so as not to make an enemy. Sometimes, the battle is one person against the majority, so they surrender before putting up a fight.

You have to see (or listen) to the things you might have to put up with on a bus. Not only because of the violent and repetitive bassline in the background, but especially because of the obscenity of these songs’ “lyrics” (if such pieces of text can be honored with this name).

Something so unbelievable like:

Push my foreskin back
So you can see the dick I have…

(This is 100% real; a neighbor heard this on a P3 urban bus. The driver wasn’t playing the song, it came from a music device a group of young people had).

Nobody knows where these lewd authors come from, who record inside a closet and mix the monstrosity with some rhythmic beats on a computer. Then they pass the song on from USB to USB, or maybe they even leak it onto the “Weekly Package” or upload it to the internet.

When my son was in primary school, reggaeton was the official soundtrack of his school parties. At junior high school, they even charged one peso per student to pay for the sound machine. Reggaeton blasted from the third floor. The words maybe weren’t so impertinent like they are today, but they were just as trivial, machista or lewd.

A friend asked me to write on Havana Times about something he experienced with some friends at the Benny More club, located in Cienfuegos.

He told me:

The music was dreadful, it’s not that they shouldn’t put reggaeton on, but rather it was the only thing they put on for the 45 minutes we were there. We decided to leave, but we no longer had any money for drinks because we had spent everything we had on getting into the club. We felt robbed because we paid just to feel bad. The atmosphere and song lyrics were just awful. I asked for the complaints and suggestions book, I was asked what for and I told them that it was so I could write that the music there was shit. A crowd formed, the book never came and they brought the manager who had been enjoying the reggaeton in the middle of the dancefloor. He told us that he had like 10 university degrees and that he understood what we were saying, that he would do something about it, which I doubt.

The screwed up thing is that there are practically only two places in Cienfuegos where you can go out: Benny More and Artex and one is just as bad as each other! So those of us who detest reggaeton and like good, varied music have nowhere to go.

My friend ended by asking himself:

What can you do in these situations, curl up into a ball? Leave the city or the country? I believe it’s my civic duty to defend my right to be included and for there to be diversity.

Photo: Narinder Sandher

I find myself repeating his same questions and I also ask myself where is the gravity of the government campaigns against the loss of values in the youth.

An effective way to educate people is via entertainment. The mind is so much more receptive to pleasure than it is to obligations. If you offer a wide range of options to young people, they will choose what they like. In Cuba, there are shortages of nearly everything, but not music, because this is the kingdom of piracy.

It isn’t a question of banning reggaeton but rather of establishing a selective process. Its about accepting the irrefutable logic that NOT EVERYTHING is art or even a commercial show. To say that we are a plural society and there is a lot of national and global culture that can make you dance with the same (and even healthier) joy.

And there is a huge responsibility to put music on for a large crowd that includes people who are still developing young people, or worse, children.

  • Hector Capote

    censorship is never right and parents complaining about the music from the youth has been going on since music existed.