Silvio Rodriguez: An accidental hero

Campaign News | Saturday, 16 September 2006

From the Guardian and Granma

For Latin Americans, Silvio Rodríguez is the equivalent of the Beatles and Dylan rolled into one. Ahead of a rare UK visit, Jan Fairley met the Cuban singer

ustralia?s role, as promoter of a f

ndment to the resolution, Perez Roque said that “Australia was a last-minute figurehead.”

He added that the US was the source of the maneuver intended to distract the UN's attention from the economic blockade against the island.

Speaking before the UN's general assembly, Perez Roque said Washington representatives finally swayed Australia to present an amendment for the Cuban resolution against the blockade, after failing to convince any European delegations to back the American plan, reported Prensa Latina news agency.

Perez Roque pointed out that Washington won the Australian support after making a top-level call to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of that oceanic country.

In response to the Australian action, the Cuban minister said Australia has no moral authority to refer to the human rights situation in Cuba, and called the country "the puppet" used by the US to propose its amendment.

The Australian government is an accomplice of American imperialism, a sort of "pocket imperialism," that is always willing to follow its mentors in Washington, he added.

Perez Roque remarked that the Australian government has no moral ground to criticize Cuba while it submits its own indigenous population to a truly apartheid regime and supports the torture center kept by the US in the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo in Cuba.

The Cuban foreign minister expressed his conviction that the General Assembly can not be misled or manipulated, requesting that the Cuban motion of no action in response to the Australian amendment be voted on, before voting in favor of the resolution.

UN overwhelmingly votes against US embargo on Cuba

From the Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. General Assembly told the United States on Wednesday to lift its four-decade old trade embargo against Cuba in a resolution adopted for the 15th consecutive year with near unanimous support.

The vote was a record 183 to 4 with one abstention on a resolution submitted by South Africa. It called on Washington to lift its "economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba," particularly provisions affecting foreign nationals

Voting "no" with the United States were Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau. Micronesia abstained. Nicaragua and Iraq did not vote.

Australia attempted to amend the document by adding a paragraph saying that the U.S. measures were motivated by "valid concerns" about the lack of freedom in Cuba and called on Havana to release political prisoners.

This fared a bit better but still was defeated by 126 to 51 and five abstentions. The European Union supported the Australian human rights amendment but voted for the resolution on lifting the embargo because of U.S. regulations that punish foreign firms, said Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen of Finland.

The measure is nonbinding and has had no impact on the United States. The Bush administration has tightened the embargo, including restrictions on visits to Cuba, travel and remittances to families.

Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told the assembly the U.S. embargo prevented Havana from getting even modest credits from the World Bank and other institutions, prevented Cuba's trade with subsidiaries of U.S. corporations abroad and barred foreign businessmen from the United States if they invested in Cuba.

"The economic war unleashed by the U.S. against Cuba, the longest and most ruthless ever know, qualifies as an act of genocide and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law," Perez Roque said.

all Cuban musicians. Active support of music and the arts as professional careers, through education, infrastructure and monthly salaries, is what keeps the Cuban music scene so fruitful. Now approaching 60, Rodríguez recalls how complex the Cuban cultural scene was when he began his career.

At that time their songs, attitudes, looks and lifestyle irritated bureaucrats with Stalinist tendencies and propagandist notions of culture. They, in sharp contrast, heralded the renaissance of medieval troubadour traditions chronicling lives and loves of their times. "It was the 60s and we were writing our songs. We liked the Beatles and experimental rock. I remember when we first heard Oyé Como Va, Carlos Santana's version of a classic Cuban song, and said, 'Look what can be done with our music', but it fell on deaf ears. There were a lot of conservative ideas around, prejudice against 'imperialist music', but over the years with a lot of discussion and music-making, people have become more reasonable."

To avoid the hardliners, Rodríguez and other like-minded musicians found a home at the intellectual powerhouse Casa de las Américas and the Cuban Cinematographic Institute, ICAIC, where leading cultural figures gave them work and helped them fight their corner. Forming the Experimental Sound Group (GESI), they composed songs and music for films. "It was amazing because we listened and encouraged and helped each other and wrote lots of songs. We showed how you could create even a poetic rock-influenced disc like Cuba Va! and still be revolutionary."

Where does he think his generation found the knack to create such potent and popular material? "It's because we became adults when we were still adolescents during the revolution's infancy, when it was tackling urgent social problems. I was only 14 when with about 6,000 others I was involved in the literacy campaign, teaching volunteer militia men defending the island on beaches and charcoal makers in the mountains to read and write. We were privileged to be struggling for ideals in everyday life, which was an amazing way to acquire a revolutionary conscience. We saw contradictions and discrepancies and said so, accepting the revolution in all its complexity and expressing it in our songs."

By negotiating their way through Cuban cultural politics, Rodríguez's generation defined their politics in the process, proving Cuban culture to be diverse and inspiring, instead of monolithic. They kept pushing frontiers, joining together in what became known as the new trova movement, modern troubadours challenging propaganda cliches by creating the distinctive self-critical songs of the Cuban revolution.

In a country not blessed with newspapers, the words of songs matter: songs like the iconic Ojalá, a song about impossible desire and dreams that seems to capture all life's uncertainties in one, became the soundtrack of everyday life across the Spanish-speaking world. Although he was no apologist for the revolution, Rodríguez's popularity at home became so great that people joked that he had gone from being "banned" to "obligatory".

By the 1980s, Rodríguez was meeting his counterparts from other parts of Latin America in festivals from Mexico to Berlin, and between them creating a hugely powerful movement of musicians speaking out for democracy and freedom.

Remembering all this now, he invokes the Russian revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky: "Ask me for poems and even if we're fucked, I'll do one!" When he recently received the Latino lifetime achievement award at the Madrid music academy, he quoted from his own much-anthologised Story of the Chairs: "He who has a song will have torment. But it is worth it to have the good song that torments."

He tells me, laughing, that people are always asking him: "What will happen when Fidel dies?" So what does he tell them? "I think the transition has begun. Cuba has capable, experienced leaders running the country, many of them very young. The only danger is, as it's always been, invasion, which could cause chaos. We know the US congress has approved an additional $80m to destroy the Cuban government. That's why we've spent half a century sleeping with one eye open!" His other eye is on his own life, Malva, and writing new songs as he continues to look forward as well as back.

· Silvio Rodríguez plays the Barbican, London EC2, next Friday. Box office: 0845 120 7500.,,1872321,00.html

Silvio Rodríguez cantará en Londres

? En apoyo al Fondo de Música para Cuba ? Artistas especialmente invitados, John Williams, Madness y Ska Cubano

EL compositor y cantante Silvio Rodríguez se presentará en el Reino Unido, sólo por una noche y por primera vez en más de 15 años, en un concierto especial en ayuda a la organización Fondo de Música para Cuba.

Durante su actuación, en la sala de conciertos del Barbican Center de Londres, el 22 de septiembre, Silvio Rodríguez estará acompañado por los miembros de su propia agrupación musical.

Según anunció el propio Silvio durante la presentación en La Habana de su último CD Erase que se era, contará con la especial participación de un exclusivo grupo de artistas amigos y solidarios del Fondo de Música para Cuba, que incluye al legendario guitarrista John Williams, uno de sus intérpretes musicales favoritos, Madness, Ska Cubano y otros artistas especiales.

El Fondo de Música para Cuba es una organización de caridad británica que trabaja con el Centro Nacional de Artes y Escuelas Musicales de Cuba para distribuir materiales a niños y gente joven en educación musical e interpretación artística. Fue establecido en memoria a la cantante Kirsty MacColl en enero del 2001. La organización planea utilizar los ingresos del concierto en el lanzamiento del proyecto de renovación del teatro Miramar en La Habana, para el uso de músicos e intérpretes jóvenes.

Con casi 60 años de edad, Silvio ha estado interpretando con su guitarra sus propias y muy tiernas canciones de amor, pérdida, pesar, compromiso político, dudas y determinación desde su debut en el año 1967. Sus canciones son conocidas por su elocuencia, símbolos y cuestionamientos y muchas de ellas se han convertido en himnos a lo largo de Latinoamérica y de Cuba también.

Silvio ha dicho: "Yo siempre he escrito de acuerdo con mi gusto y a mi conciencia".

Formó parte del Grupo de Experimentación Sonara del ICAIC, encabezado por Leo Brouwer. Desde entonces Silvio ha compuesto música para películas, además de 15 discos de larga duración, muchos como solista y algunos con el grupo AfroCuba, y ha continuado desarrollándose como un artista independiente y de convicciones inquebrantables.

En abril de este año, Silvio fue galardonado por la Academia de Música, Artes y Ciencia de España con el Premio Latino a los logros de toda una vida de trabajo: "un símbolo de compromiso social y político y un ejemplo de escritura poética’’. Una superestrella en Cuba y a través del mundo hispanoparlante, recientemente dijo en una entrevista: "Yo he sido afortunado al encontrar canciones que estaban perdidas en el paisaje".

El director de la organización sin ánimo de lucro Fondo de Música para Cuba, Rob Millar, dijo: ‘’Nosotros nos sentimos honrados de darle a Silvio la bienvenida a Londres -sus canciones poéticas le hablan a millones de personas de todas las edades en todo el mundo, así como a todos los cubanos; su visita es una gran noticia para la comunidad latinoamericana en el Reino Unido y para todos los admiradores de la música cubana.

(Tomado de

*The Music Fund for Cuba has a very limited number of charity seats available for this special show. The seats are top price seats in the stalls and the charity price of £50 includes an invitation to the invite only post concert charity reception.

These tickets are only available from the Music Fund for Cuba on 020 7263 6452

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