Graffiti on a street in Centro Habana. The photograph is part of the exhibition "CUBA HIP-HOP, Collection and Memory of a Culture (1980- 2018)." Photo: Courtesy of Alejandro Zamora.
Graffiti on a street in Centro Habana. The photograph is part of the exhibition "CUBA HIP-HOP, Collection and Memory of a Culture (1980- 2018)." Photo: Courtesy of Alejandro Zamora.

Cuban Hip Hop Culture at the National Library

5 minutos / Carmen Berenguer

14.11.2018 / Reviews

Archives and collections are valuable tools for preserving the history and national memory of societies. Such responsibility requires the union of the deep knowledge of the professional and the conscious sensitivity that inflames the activist. In order to undertake such a task, proactive professionals, managers and facilitators are needed who not only identify the keys to the culture, society and history of a country, but who, by making them part of the archive, are actors themselves in the process of training memory and national identity.

Alejandro Zamora Montes is a young communicator who works as a journalist for the electronic magazine Librínsula of the National Library of Cuba "José Martí" (BNCJM). He has diverse intellectual concerns and an inquisitive look at the cultural processes of the nation. For years, with determination and dedication, investigates and promotes everything that concerns hip hop culture in our country. Your book Rapping a Utopian Cuba (2017), participation in events inside and outside the country, the numerous journalistic works he has published on the genre, as well as an active participation in social networks for the defense and promotion of our artists attest to this. The result of his action as an activist will be the inauguration in the Music Room of the National Library, today November 14 at 2 in the afternoon, of the exhibition "CUBA HIP-HOP. Collection and memory of a culture (1980- 2018) ". The varied materials that will be shown belong to the National Library, the Cuban Rap Agency (ACR), the Cuban Music Research and Development Center (CIDMUC), the Recording and Musical Editions Company (EGREM), and personal collections of specialists, researchers, activists and musicians of Cuban hip hop.

Since its birth, more than forty years ago, the global impact of hip hop culture has been such that today there is a huge circuit of publications, university courses and even archives dedicated to collect, preserve, promote and make available to researchers his legacy as culture in all its manifestations: music, graffiti, activism, dance, Dj's, among others. Good examples are the archives of the universities of Harvard, Cornell and UCLA, perhaps the most outstanding at the international level. The exhibition that will take place at the BNCJM is the first panoramic exhibition of the presence and development of the hip hop culture among us for three decades. Three large exhibition blocks show the antecedents and initial moments of hip hop Cuban (the eighties of the last century), the first successes, festivals and theoretical meetings (the nineties) and a final block that covers from the beginning of the present century to the present.

This poster of Tagles Heredia for the promotion of a rap concert at the Alamar Amphitheater is part of the exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of Alejandro Zamora.

This poster of Tagles Heredia for the promotion of a rap concert at the Alamar Amphitheater is part of the exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of Alejandro Zamora.

The impressive file tracking and search work done by Zamora joins the work of curator Jorge Luis Montesinos to lead the audience through a tour through cassettes, books, folding, event programs, photographs, serial digital and printed publications, CD's , DVD's, posters, flyers (loose), promotional spots, audio files, video clips, among other documents. Among the materials offered, a bibliographic list (in digital format) made by the librarians Carmen Berenguer Hernández and Virginia Carvajal Iduate, in collaboration with Zamora Montes, reviews the subject of rap through a small selection of newspapers and magazines. Cubans during the period from 1979 to 2016.

Balesy Rivero Nordet, cultural promoter and one of the initiators of the hip hop movement in the country, will present to the BNCJM a document (in digital and printed version), the result of his personal compilation, with exhaustive information on the Rap Festivals celebrated in Alamar As a culmination, the National Library will receive as a donation from Alejandro Zamora Montes and the Cuban Rap Agency of the eleven issues of Movement, first Cuban magazine specialized in this culture, as well as some discs, posters and billboards.

As if that were not enough, the activity will feature luxury guests, protagonists of the history of the genre in the country. Rodolfo Rensoli Medina and Balesy Rivero, cultural promoters and founders of Grupo Uno; Ariel Fernández, activist and founding director of the magazine Movement, Susana García Amorós, director-founder of the Cuban Rap Agency (ACR); Magia López Cabrera, former director of the ACR; Roberto Zurbano, former director of Movement; Marta Lesmes, editor of the publication; Miguel Ángel Abreu Larrondo, "Miguelito, la Peste", choreographer dancer break dance, among others. Likewise, there will be present intellectuals of the first order who have devoted attention to the imprint of the movement in the culture of the country; stand out among them, Tomás Fernández Robaina, Víctor Fowler Calzada, Grizel Hernández Baguer, Liliana Casanellas Cué and Joaquín Borges Triana.

Hip hop culture, and within it, rap music, are an indissoluble part of the Cuban cultural heritage, in active dialogue and fusion with the multiplicity of styles and genres of the nation's musical scene. In the moments that I write these lines the organizational details are finalized and some that another surprise for the moment that arrives the afternoon to cut the tape. We congratulate Alejandro and the BNCJM for welcoming the idea and we wish them success in the endeavor.

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Carmen Berenguer

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