HAVANA TIMES — Like in other parts of the planet, reggae and Bob Marley are well liked in Cuba. The rhythm of that music grabs us and allows us to enjoy a melody that’s different from son, rumba and other popular styles here in Cuba – in a way that rock didn’t achieve.
Here though, in contrast to the rest of the world, most Cubans don’t understand the English words in Marley’s songs.
His messages about God, about being proud of one’s blackness and the need for us to become better humans don’t reach them.
Therefore, it’s unfortunate that true Rastafarians are commonly seen in Cuba as shady characters intent on subverting the social order.
It’s a shame they’re viewed as thieves or bums – often due to racial prejudice. There’s also a general association between them and marijuana.
They’re considered capable of any atrocity, when in reality their connection with “Jah” (God) individually requires them to be better parents, children, siblings, partners and neighbors.
I think that among those Cubans who hum Marley’s songs, if they knew of the music’s inspiration from God, this would cause some type of conflict in listening to it. This is because God — seen in that way — is not a real concept for many of my countrymen, who are followers of the Regla de Ocha, from the Yoruba religion.
I think such confusion also occurs despite the increase in parishioners of the various aspects of Christian thought on the island in recent years.
Here, you can see people of all ages enjoying reggae in their homes, playing it on cellphones in the street and on buses and cars that pass by. It has spread around the world as the music of rebellion and anti-system resistance.
Yet, the messianic “peace and love” message of Rastafarianism is something alien to ordinary Cubans, though they apparently find no rest in their daily vicissitudes.
But it’s not that people now prefer new reggae groups – Cuban ones or others. No! It’s that Bob Marley is a symbol for them (though of what I don’t know).
They’ll keep listening to him until one day (I hope) they fully understand — for the better — what he’s conveying as a message. That will be a first step toward integration, and not discrimination, of Rastafarians in Cuba.