Monday, June 07, 2010

Silvio Rodriguez: Nostalgia Merchant

Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez is touring the US for the first time in thirty years. Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez has an blog post at HuffPo

Silvio Rodriguez: Nostalgia Merchant
Yoani Sanchez

Award-Winning Cuban Blogger
Posted: June 2, 2010 09:52 PM

While young people around the world enjoyed the music of the sixties, for Cubans it was forbidden to hear anything that had imperialist echoes, including the Beatles. Just at that time there appeared in our island what ended up being called the Nueva Trova -- New Minstrel -- Movement. Silvio Rodriguez has been its signature performer with songs full of poetic lyrics and music that mixes the tonalities of our traditional minstrel songs with the chords of Bob Dylan.

Silvio's generation, touched by the euphoric effects of the Revolution, was considered anti-establishment, based on between-the-line meanings one could read into his lyrics. He was banned on some television programs and many of his songs were never broadcast. Little by little, before the eyes of followers and detractors, the Movement was absorbed by the ruling ideological apparatus to the point where there came a time when no political event lacked the accompaniment of his songs. He won admirers and spawned imitators, girls swooned over him, and requests for concerts came from all over Latin America.

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The 1980s, when at any hour of the day or night, you could turn the radio dial and hear Silvio's songs, are long gone. In those days he won every popularity contest and seemed like a star whose light would never fade. But the demands of tourism and Cubans' own weariness with protest songs, set the stage for the creation and spread of danceable music which, in all its rawness, is the anthem of these times: reggaeton. While Nueva Trova still has its adherents, it has been relegated to niche audiences.

Today, Silvio Rodriguez is the living representative of nostalgia for a utopia that never materialized. Some of his fans come to his concerts decked out in their Che Guevara T-shirts and sing the choruses as if they could roll back history; it's as if they are saying, "This is not dead." Increasingly rare are those who can reconcile his musical expression with his civic behavior, as few can forgive the many years he has been sitting in parliament without raising his hand to ask for an end to the immigration restrictions, the elimination of the dual currency system, or the decriminalization of political dissent.

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Read the full post HERE.