January 21, 2022

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‘Patria y Vida’: How a Cuban Rap Track Turned a Protest Anthem

‘Patria y Vida’: How a Cuban Rap Song Became a Protest Anthem

MEXICO CITY — As hundreds marched throughout Cuba final July in an astonishing protest towards the Communist regime, many shouted and sang a standard chorus: “Patria y vida!” or “Homeland and life!”

The phrase comes from a rap track of the identical identify, which has become an anthem for a burgeoning motion of younger folks taking to the web and to the streets, demanding an finish to political oppression and financial distress.

The track, written by Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo, Eliecer “el Funky” Márquez Duany and the reggaeton pair Gente de Zona, is nominated for two Latin Grammys, together with track of the yr, and will probably be carried out on the present Thursday night time.

“These are the primary Grammy Awards for the folks of Cuba, the primary Grammys for freedom,” Romero stated in a telephone interview from Miami. “These are the primary Grammys the place it’s not Yotuel nor Gente Zona which are nominated, it’s patria y vida, it’s Cuba.”

The track is a uncommon occasion of Cuban artists instantly taking up the regime: The title is a twist on one of the vital iconic slogans of the Cuban revolution, patria o muerte, (homeland or dying), a phrase that Fidel Castro usually used to finish his speeches.

“It was the antithesis of homeland or dying — homeland and life,” Romero stated. “I knew that phrase was going to deliver a variety of controversy.”

And generate controversy it did.

After it was launched in February, the track was closely criticized by authorities figures like President Miguel Díaz-Canel and former tradition minister Abel Prieto, who known as the monitor a “musical pamphlet.” and wrote, “There’s nothing extra unhappy than a refrain of annexationists attacking their homeland” on Twitter.

However the official criticism did little to stem the track’s reputation. After a long time of isolation, web use turned widespread in Cuba in 2018 — many younger Cubans at the moment are extremely energetic on social media, the place the anthem unfold like wildfire. The accompanying video has been considered greater than 9 million instances on YouTube.

The track’s launch got here only a few months after a whole bunch of artists, intellectuals and others demonstrated outdoors the Ministry of Tradition in Havana to protest a slew of latest arrests, together with that of the rapper Denis Solís.

“That protest reworked the narrative of the opposition in Cuba,” stated Rafael Escalona, the director of the Cuban music journal AM:PM. “There was fertile floor for somebody to reap the fruits and create a protest anthem.”

On July 11, “Patria y Vida” was reworked right into a rallying cry, when Cuba witnessed its largest protests in decades, with Cubans protesting over energy outages, meals shortages and a scarcity of medicines.

“That is my approach of telling you, my individuals are crying out and I really feel their voice,” the track says. “No extra lies, my folks ask for freedom. No extra doctrines, let’s not sing of homeland or dying however homeland and life.”

Tons of of individuals had been jailed after the July demonstrations, and at the very least 40 extra were detained on Monday because the regime moved to stifle one other deliberate march.

The dangers prolonged to the songwriters too.

Whereas many of the artists who collaborated on the track had been well-known internationally earlier than the monitor’s launch and had been additionally residing outdoors of Cuba, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky nonetheless lived on the island: Each had been arrested earlier this yr, and Osorbo stays in jail. Romero, who lives in Miami, stated that he can’t return to the island for worry of arrest.

However regardless of the crackdown, Romero stated he’s assured that the rising motion fomented by Cuba’s youth and given a soundtrack by “Patria y Vida” is just simply getting began.

“That is now not a motion, it’s technology. It’s the technology patria y vida,” he stated. “The technology patria y vida has come to bury the technology patria o muerte.”

Carlos Melián Moreno contributed reporting from Santiago, Cuba.

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