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The Politics of Cuban Music During the Special Period  
  

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Last updated 11/26/06


 
 
Social Transition Through Music

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Cuba lost its chief economic and political ally. Without the assistance of the Soviets, Cuban society entered a time known as the "Special Period" where Cubans were forced to look for new ways to survive. In an effort to reinvigorate the economy, Cuban music was emphasized as a chief cultural export.

In the late 1990s the Buena Vista Social Club (BVSC) achieved critical success, especially in the United States. This group of aging Cuban musicians performed son, a genre entrenched in African and Latin musical influences, that was popular during the first half of the twentieth century. The commodification of the BVSC in the international community sparked a renewed interest in Cuban music in general, ultimately illuminating more contemporary styles popular among Cuba's younger generations.

These styles of music, including timba (a mixture of salsa, jazz, and rap) and hip-hop, may all be characterized by an element of critique that naturally arises during periods of social uncertainty and transition. Through an analysis of these more outspoken styles of music as well as the surrounding discourse, I hope to bring to light to the various ambivalences of the Cuban people.

I assert that these styles have acted as a barometer of the emotions of the Cuban people during the Special Period, including feelings of nationalism and dissatisfaction. This site will serve as a means of exploring an assortment of relevant themes relating to Cuban music and identity, including, among others, revolution, immigration, and globalization.

 


 

 


 
©2006 by Eric Oberstein (ejo11@duke.edu). LATAMER136: Intro to Contemporary Latin America, Duke University, Fall 2006.