Cyberspace was heated up a couple of weeks ago over a particular incident involving a reggaeton song here in Cuba. Vladia Rubio took the opportunity during the closing ceremony of the International Workshop on Social Networks, to ask Abel Prieto, Cuba’s Minister of Culture and a writer and music lover in his own right about the genre, alternative arts and the arts in general, inclusiveness and elitism. MAP
By Vladia Rubio
– To what extent should we adopt inclusive and non elitist attitudes, without risking blatant populism, by which we end up with infamous characters with a shaky cultural foundation who later go around the world as representatives of Cuban culture?
– I think that in topics like the one you approach, the song that’s been so criticized, the role of artistic critique is essential, so as to provide people with a strong sense of knowledge on the matter. Because one of the biggest traps is to say ‘we’ll give people what they like’, accepting that this is a scenario that simply cannot be improved, modified; of course, wary of the cookie cut patterns. In those matters artistic critique plays an essential role, and I mean a criticism that while being specialized is accessible to young people. We have to train that critic receiver, capable of consuming culture critically; that is one of the great priorities of any kind of cultural effort we attempt.
– Alternative art seems to be in fashion as a concept. During this meeting on social networks a part of the debate rested on the concept that “alternative” was a trend towards subversion of power. How do you see Cuban art under the label of alternative?
– Cultural industries have become democratic. In the past you had to stand in line at EGREM (Cubas primary recording label) to cut an album, or you had to present a script to ICAIC (Cubas film institute) and wait for your turn so that they approved it and, later the possibility of a budget. Today, you can make a movie and a CD in your home. New technologies favor forms that in the past were industrial.
– But there are some who seek to take over the epithet of “alternative” to dig trenches in the antipodes of our social project…
– That trap can also exist. Therefore institutions must have the flexibility, pay enough attention, to the new creative processes that can be considered “alternative”. I don’t know of any noteworthy artist in Cuba today and I believe I’m very close to what’s being done in the provinces, who uses his or her art to attack the Revolution or follow a dissident path. I don’t know of a single one.
– Los Aldeanos as a group of alternative music has been polemic and interpreted from very different points of view.
– I believe Los Aldeanos are revolutionary people, they were in the United States and maintained a consequent attitude towards their reality here and there. In their work, as in the work of many of our rappers, there is a social and ethical criticism related to what we must discuss in Cuba. What we called “alternative”, that is, what is done in terms of art outside institutions, if it’s authentic, if it’s worthy, it should have a space in our cultural politics. I believe we must always recognize that the cultural organizations around the country have been always on the lookout for those areas of creativeness that are born and grow outside the institutional framework. That is, the barriers will never lay in the contents of the works, in a given message, but rather in mercenary activities hidden behind any given art form which receiving money from our enemies pertain to present themselves as art or alternative art.