A 2nd Colloquium on Reggaeton and Problematic Social Situations in Cuba

7 04 2012

Reggaeton: a love story; Better bayuti[1] than dictatuti

In real time, it’s illegible but the Cuban press has come to be very creative if it is read with a five year lag time, “chabacaneria”[2], luxury, lechery, lamentation, vice, consumption of toxicity, banality, corny-ness, trinket shops, flamboyant attires, cheesy bargains, and an ecetera half ethical and half ethnical. The self-titled “Cuban Youth Daily” put forward its best effort in the beginning to frame the coordinated condemnations of reggaeton, even if a bit late, with the  flow of time and money, and has attempted several baby steps towards tolerance.

Why would the Cuban intellectual have to think or at least give some weight to reggaeton? Why isn’t it reggaeton that intrudes on the theory chorus of the cultural realm? To think is to possess. We want to put all phenomenon in the civil waistline of power. We can’t stand to be stuck outside the the flow of sense that, for its part, is a source of capital. We know that we can legitimize or stigmatize a genre of music that, while the more it goes along with a big mouth and sticks to people, the more voiceless and vulnerable it seems facing the Institution that is always a bit inquisitorial. for the moment we fool along (we make ourselves the fools). It’s still early to be passing judgement and maybe it was our turn before for a good piece of cake.

Reggaeton as a form of linguistic violence has always captivated me as a distortion of the Cuban norm (unconscious Cabrera infantilisms or translated captions something like the movie La Naranja Mecánica [The Mechanical Orange]). Any break-out or emptying of the language fascinates me, even when it closes upon itself and doesn’t blow up in the face of the social consensus.

In terms of textual terrorism, the territorial reggaeton slang in truth promised much more than it produced, but in Cuba this inefficacy far from being a sin, at these heights already, should be a constitutional preamble. We don’t come to any libertarian limits. We cross the line, yes, but only from a heavy conservatism, never out of fashion. Cuba as commodity.

The strange family sagas of the first texts that I have a poor memory of, with their twisted Oedipus-isms and certain common, criminal-esque places, soon were dissolving in the friendly media of the caricature. The themes ended before being completely explored, even before turning out to be interesting for our most restless intellectuality (worthy oxymoron).

There remain then the eternal twitches of Cubanity, the alpha macho uprooted or predatory, the mean and voracious girl, the consuming at an open bar (the CUC [3] as the measure of all things, the almighty buck as the only real event to be remembered in anniversaries) complete forgetting of those who died needlessly, hedonism before historicism, a certain “sexual promiscuity” and a lot of “moral relativism” (that still generates panic in the chorus line of our insular churches), and all the other aesthetics that pass for icons, brand name clothing, tattoos, glitzy jewelry, luxury cars, purebred pets, the mass orgy as a substitute for the organization of the masses, in the end, a final assault on all those delicate distractions that the ideological elite hid for decades by the frugal instinct of self-conservation.

When it’s allowed (with some possible exceptions) to be aired in official media, reggaeton pays homage to the popularity they charge for it under the table [4]; and pardon me those of you present here from the left, this bad metaphor, the announcers and radio producers, among other new actors of the Cuban post-socialism of the 21st century). The Quinquenio de Oro of this class does not stain its fingers with the ink of the “best pens of the Republic” as have been called its songwriters a bit in the style of “the best minds of my generation” of Allen Ginsburg, howled a lot but seldom criticized. More like attendance records and prohibitive prices for their spectacular spectacles not like the cock fighting rings but like vaudeville. No-one loses. Not even those who lose their heads only to lose their clothes in public in a corporal climax of the corporate show (there was even someone who involved their skin in the first comandante-esque tattoo in five discursive decades of the Revolution).

Precisely then, after the first putative death of Fidel, it was the Cuban state that began to find itself outside the game, victimized budgetarily, reggaeton-icized by an emerging industry much better than its functionaries. Tickets were running somewhere between the corrupt and the legal, between the clandestine disc burners and the video clips of national television (contaminating the increasingly professional artists and technicians) between the Makumba and Miami (it’s only an example) and the power doesn’t know how to boycott this short cut direct to the future, no, to the extreme future.

The little dogs, who knows if from the political police (it’s only another example), gave a hand to the ministerial marionettes. Here or there in every six months there rises some brilliant conference that rebukes reggaeton in the sacred name of the little people, that fascist totalitarian defect of the disguised demagogue of pedagogy. When the Premier of Culture  himself appeared on the Mesa Redonda [5] of Cubavision Internacional (which is our de facto Parliament before the world) a fake head was chosen and it was so simple to deconstruct the remains of a slang that was barely mumbling genital syllables.

Case closed, comical circus , semantical of semen cyclical: chabacaneria, luxury, lust, lamentable, vice consumption of toxics, banality, corny, trinket shop, flamboyant attire, cheesy bargains (put on the hot underwear-uty, take down the wild par-uty, spit all-uty out the mouth-uty because the dictator-uty is here to order you to stop-uty [6]).

To the new class of non-consumers of Reggaeton, you’re within your right to defend the status quo of your governance ad infinitum. For lack of rash intellectual attempts, the transition in Cuba could have well been able to slip into the background of the neighborhood of the last tam-tam[7]. A lesson is necessary in order to expose the lack of solidarity of the trade (not even a single collection of signatures against the censorship) and the shunning by steps of its most successful leaders .

Now in the second stage of the rhetorical recruiting of Reggaeton as state lever, for sure a mutual pact in terms of taxes and resolutions against the delinquency of debt and infractions, ethical codes and sanctions including even for reasons of grammar, symbolic management salaries and permits in passports in order to allow departure from and return to the country with money, more so the customary community signboards, clearly, and perhaps these colloquiums or lectures where, to legitimize or stigmatize this idiot son of the post-modernity that, meanwhile the more lap dancing, bumping and grinding gets more promiscuity to the people, the more mute and defenseless it leaves us in the face of our own inquisition that’s always a bit institutional. We fool around for the moment (we make ourselves the fools ). It’s never too late to pass sentence and I believe it will be our turn before that nice slice of cake.

Translator’s notes:

[1] The word “bayu” in Cuban Spanish means a wild, orgiastic party. Adding a syllable to the end of that word enables reggaeton to rhyme the word bayu-ti with “dictadura” (dictatorship) which has the same syllable added to it to make dicatu-ti

[2] “Chabacaneria”: crass , loud , mannerisms of the street including vulgar sexual talk.

[3] Cuba has two currencies. There is the traditional CUP (Cuban peso, also known as “moneda nacional” or national money), and then there is the coveted CUC – Cuban Convertible Peso, the value of which is tied 1:1 to the American dollar. CUC enables the holder to purchase goods at government stores that sell goods from overseas, quality foods, luxury items in addition to anything that CUP can buy as well as purchasing or selling such items between private parties.

[4] the expression “under the table” in English is rendered as “by the left” in Spanish which is why the writer apologizes for the use of the metaphor.

[5] Mesa Redonda or Round Table is a nightly show on Cuban television where prominent academics and members of the government discuss matters of national and international importance.

[6] A satirical change of lyrics from a reggaeton song by Osmani Garcia about the joys of oral sex. The song can be heard at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIsCs4g3maM.

[7] Drum circle or a drum of African origins.

Translated by: William Fitzhugh

February 25 2012

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