Thursday, July 15, 2004

Hip-hop as counterculture movement in Cuba

The Dallas Morning News

HAVANA - (KRT) - Seven men, some wearing nothing but bikini underwear, spent a recent morning rolling around on the floor, chanting, running in circles and literally banging out tunes using old Soviet typewriters as instruments.

They're members of Omni-Zona Franca and represent one of the more extreme examples of Cuba's fast-growing counterculture movement.

Artists, street performers, rappers, reggae singers and others are carving out precious new space in the traditionally rigid socialist society.

Some openly criticize the government, complaining about 50-cent-per-day wages, racial discrimination, economic inequality and police abuse.

The government's reaction has been astonishing, some Cubans said. Instead of repressing the movement, it has embraced it - helping to organize rap concerts and festivals and allowing artists and musicians to use state-owned workshops. And the government finances counterculture publications.

"The entire political culture supports rap," said Ariel Fernandez, editor of Movimiento, a state-funded magazine about Cuban hip-hop.


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