Diseño: Jennifer Ancizar
Diseño: Jennifer Ancizar

Cuban popular music a palo limpio

29 minutos / Adriana Orejuela Martínez

21.08.2020 / Articles

It is enough to look at the serial publications from different periods or to go back over some essential books to observe how successive generations of Cubans - specialists, musicians or journalists in the cultural field - have considered that popular music is going through a period of crisis.

Although each moment has its own characteristics, this appreciation aims, almost always, to the music that young people enjoy, that is, to fashionable expressions. The arguments are recurrent: the unfortunate quality of the lyrics, the unbearable rhythmic monotony, the extremely poor harmonic work, the melodic simplicity, the irredeemable loss of what each generation understands as "authentic Cubanness", the unjust forgetfulness of glorious musicians that youth does not know (sometimes because of the media), the deficiencies in the broadcasting channels, etc. In short, the voices of warning about the delicate state of health of Cuban popular music are a constant at different times.

This fact is strange for those of us outside the island's borders who have systematically received robust music that is proud of itself. Cuban discography is an object of cult and there, where it is least suspected, monumental collections piled up that jealously treasure true relics. Everything seems to indicate not only that the famous saying that recommends washing dirty clothes at home works here, but something more transcendent, and that is that music matters and moves continuous reflection.

"Tastes that deserve sticks"

“Currently there is no more Cuban theater in its capital than the Alhambra, what is the exclusive genre that it cultivates? The one with the most unbridled sicalipsis. Who are its authors: the brothers Francisco and Gustavo Robreño; Villoch, Saladrigas, Martín Pizarro, the Anckermann […]? We have not produced any useful inventions, nor added a leaf to the laurel wreath of the arts; nor did any science advance […] but yes, we have amended the flat to Paris and emulated the peoples of the East in the reproduction, in full electric light, of the grossest sensual scenes […]. There are tastes that deserve suits and glories that deserve prison. We go like this".

This is how Joaquín J. Aramburu pronounced himself in his article El Alhambra on May 4, 1910 in the Diario de La Marina, also quoting comments from the Madrid journalist Miguel de Zárraga and the Cuban José Antonio González Lanuza. On a completely opposite shore, Alejo Carpentier in Music in Cuba not only repeatedly praises the talent of composer Jorge Anckermann, but also attaches great importance to the bufo theater in the evolution of popular music: “all types of urban songs and dances and peasants were brought out, diffused, and mixed. The demands of the scene diversified genres born in the same trunk. Black became definitively valid. Alhambra was, for thirty-five years, a true conservatory of national rhythms ”.

The marshmallow of the danzón, the picturesque jargon of Sindo and the African inharmonies of the son

For Carpentier and other artists and intellectuals who shaped the avant-garde of the 1920s, there were other tastes that really deserved sticks for keeping popular music submerged in a "parlor marshmallow", too close to opera and Neapolitan song , from which he did not seem to be able to get away easily. Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes and other authors less talented than the composer of the famous ´´habanera Tú´´ had established themselves as rectors of good taste and dominated the music scene from a repertoire that, labeled as the maximum expression of the typical Cuban, was made up of Creoles , songs, guajiras or boleros Italianate and cheesy - "picúos", Carpentier would write.melcocha de salón”, demasiado cercana a la ópera y a la canción napolitana, de la que no parecía poder zafarse con facilidad. Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes y otros autores menos talentosos que el compositor de la famosa habanera Your se habían erigido en rectores del buen gusto y dominaban la escena musical a partir de un repertorio que, etiquetado como máxima expresión de lo típico cubano, estaba integrado por criollas, canciones, guajiras o boleros italianizantes y cursis —“picúos”, escribiría Carpentier. 

In addition to the circumstances inherent to the political context that Cuba lived in those first years of the republic and the remarkable presence of North American culture on the Island, it is not risky to affirm that perhaps this somewhat anemic panorama has led to the youth of those years to prefer the one step, the fox trot and the yop. But there was, however, another shore from which those calmer and "Cuban" music was defended tooth and nail. We read it like this in the editorial in Follies magazine, March 19, 1922: one step, he fox trot y he yopBut there was, however, another shore from which those calmer and "Cuban" music was defended tooth and nail. We read it like this in the editorial of Follies magazine , on March 19, 1922: Follies, el 19 de marzo de 1922:

“Today we are going to refer to what we could call‘ national music ’, which decays, languishes day after day, replaced by the garish notes of exotic musical pieces that only have the value of being foreign. Our classic danzón only in a few so-called ‘regional’ societies is maintained in the manner of an agonist in his last moments of prostration […]. Cuban recreation and leisure societies […], note that your work will have to be judged in the future, and act accordingly so that their judgment is favorable to you. Cuba needs your music […]. Will no reaction come? "

If we compare a dance program from 1913 at La Tropical and another from 1922 at the Dependents Association, the ardent clamor of this editorial will be understood:

April 1913

  1. Alma española— Pasodoble
  2. Barbero de Sevilla— Danzón
  3. La viuda alegre— Danzón
  4. Conde de Luxemburgo— Vals de Strauss
  5. El guitarrico— Danzón
  6. Alfonso XIII— Pasodoble
  7. Casita criolla— Danzón [repertorio del Alhambra]
  8. Corte de faraón— Danzón
  9. Machaquito— Danzón
  10. Se rompió la máquina— Danzón
  11. Ensueños— Vals tropical

Marzo de 1922

  1. Mello Cello— Vals
  2. Somebody— One step
  3. Ana Luisa— Danzón
  4. Mimí— Fox trot
  5. Los jóvenes del kewpie— Danzón
  6. StolenKisses— Fox trot
  7. Jabón en la línea— Danzón
  8. Just Like a Rainbow— Fox trot
  9. La Jara— Danzón
  10. All by Myself— Fox trot
  11. Mujer ingrata— Danzón
  12. Home Again Blue— Fox trot

It is easy to infer that the repertoire of the typical ones had to undergo adaptations to be able to stay in the market. However, even those dying and prostrate danzones of the early 1920s received a barrage of sticks at the time. In a lecture delivered by Gaspar Agüero in 1920 at the University of Havana, he attacked:

“The danzón […] provides us with the strongest proof that the use of the musical chorus is detrimental to Creole music […], the dancers of danzones, driven by a special instinct, always put something of their harvest, improvising successive reforms to the ill-fated chorus […] such a circumstance will kill the Cuban danzón, because when the compositions are made leaving room for them to be freely completed by the performers, they end up destroying them with their collaborations, most of the time detestable.

What has been said, each generation perceives the loss of essential values of popular music in the latest interpretative forms, a phenomenon that is repeated over and over again. Fortunately, musicians tend to be reluctant to these opinions, because if they had contained themselves in the use and abuse of the chorus, we would have missed, for example, the superb new rhythm danzones of Arcaño y sus Maravillas. Now, that irrepressible instinct that ends in discharge (nothing else is the detestable improvisation that Agüero mentions) is produced with greater ease in typical orchestras, based on the influence of the chorus of son.

And although they are not part of the Italianate marshmallow that so cloying Carpentier, it will surprise many to discover that the lyrics of many songs and boleros by Sindo Garay, a mythical figure of Cuban popular music, also suffered a certain mocking criticism, from Gaspar Agüero himself, who in turn quotes and subscribes in this case, what was written by the Mexican composer Manuel María Ponce:

“The picturesque jargon that Sindo uses to express his ideas is extremely curious, because frequently the idea is fair and timely, but the desire for originality, elegance or perfection forces him to use bizarre or absurd terms, saying introit when referring to a prelude , buffoonish for buff, vociferous for voicing, chronic for romantic, etc. […]. Sindo's spirit, always tending towards exquisiteness and novelty, achieves in music what it does not achieve in language: the happy and fully artistic expression in its melodies in subjective and essentially spiritual art. Whereas in the art of the word, being more precise, more objective, he only comes to invent extravagant words that invite you to laugh ”.

This is how things went before the total acceptance / massive diffusion of son in the 1920s, although, as it is known, for some time the oriental soneros coexisted in the popular neighborhoods of the capital with rumberos and members of harpsichord choirs. , who would end up printing their own accent on the genre, to give rise to the habanero son, full of tasty rumba references. However, in 1924 it was still possible to read headlines on the front page, such as the following taken from the newspaper La Discusión: “In the midst of the African inharmonies (sic) of a 'son', a stubborn suitor forges the murder of his adored torment and commits suicide later ”. To which the analysis of Carpentier in Cuban popular music. People in their son seem to respond: La Discusión: “En medio de las africanas inarmonías (sic) de un ‘son’, un obcecado pretendiente fragua el asesinato de su adorado tormento y se suicida después”. A lo que el análisis de Carpentier en La música popular cubana. Pueblo en su son pareciera responder: 

“El son de Oriente […] came to oppose the frontal offensive of jazz. A la loma de Belén, Cabo de la Guardia, Mujeres, don't sleep […] and other songs that were the basis of the repertoire of the Sexteto [Habanero] became popular one day, making us forget what jazz would have revealed to us about a type of urban popular music, highly esteemed […] but that was on the way to replace the arsenal of our prodigious Afro-Cuban drums with the functional presence of the drum […]. By 1925, the son already owned the Plaza de La Habana […]. Cuba owes a lot to its popular musicians, as regards an affirmation of its own characters before the world […]. The fact is so important that it goes beyond the field of music to reach that of sociology ”.

But whoever defends, after time, also criticizes. In the '40s, a time of splendor of the ensembles, with Arsenio Rodríguez at the helm, Carpentier, in La Música en Cuba, laments with evident nostalgia that “the orchestras are in their purest form, as we knew them in the twenties [ have] disappeared from the large urban centers [and that] only in very popular dances [can a full sound of voices and percussion be heard, still ". This opinion is somewhat strange, if one takes into account the determination with which the writer insisted on the importance of exploiting the enormous wealth of Afro-Cuban percussion, an innovative feature that, among many others, characterized the sounds of the great Arsenio. Here again the perception of music comes into play, which loses its purity and is no longer the same.

Maraquero localism and tabernary plebeyez

Year 1959. A new turn of the screw and the debates return. Roberto Fernández Retamar says in Revolution: “The traps of maraquero localism have been left far behind […] the precipitous roots in the picturesque gives little […], instead of the localist underlining [it is necessary] a confident and deep approach to our things, and at the same time, a desire to place them within the larger orbit to which they belong ”.

And in the same year, Ramiro Guerra on Lunes de Revolución: “[…] we see how [the dancers] get lost in the daily routine of the 'nite-club' where they unconsciously adapt their meaning to the frivolous spectacle of such places. We also see how the carnival groups have become ‘shows’ for tourists […]. Under the protection of this ignorance, pseudo groups of national folklore are created, in which areítos de Anacaona, female ñañiguismos and false folkloric interpretations, with a good dose of bad taste, have gone out to the public, and worse, abroad, in official representation of our country".

In my book El son did not leave Cuba. Keys to a story. 1959-1973 there are sufficient proofs that the criterion that folklore and national rhythms were deformed inside the cabarets to attract the applause of tourists with their false exoticism, was shared by the most lucid intellectual and artistic avant-garde of the moment and of how it was reflected in the press from the first months of 1959.

To be precise, this criterion finds an echo since the triumph of the Revolution, but it was latent prior to that date in centers of thought such as the cultural society Nuestro Tiempo, founded in the early 1950s. In 1952, again Carpentier, who did not belong to said institution, wrote: “[music today] has fallen into a commoner tavern or cabaret, far from the sympathetic innocence of those 'fritas' of Marianao […], the guaracha, the rumba, are born in the cabaret with double meaning 'lyrics' and a terrifying poverty of invention in words and music ”.

The truth is that this "barbarian and cabaret commoner" had made Havana's night of the 1950s one of the most varied and vibrant in the world. As can be seen, this decade too, which would go down in the history of Cuban popular music as glorious — and in reality it was — had detractors among a sector of its contemporaries.

Mint, miniskirt and long hair 

“For four years someone closed the entrance to foreign music. This set us back as music fluctuates between world influences. Now, an also arbitrary opening places us behind. Composers, arrangers, interpreters, we are out of tune with what is coming […], there is a problem of conscience made, of directed taste. Mint at all hours —together with the miniskirt and long hair— are an expression of the desire to copy, they are not Cuban products. "

This is how José Antonio Méndez spoke in Juventud Rebelde in response to Santiago Ruiz, in October 1967. In the mid-1960s the spirit of the early years of the Revolution seemed distant in time, when there was a shocking desire to recover what was most genuine of the country's cultural heritage and Odilio Urfé, under the auspices of the National Council of Culture (CNC), was able to specify the articulation of typical groups, made up of luxury exponents in each genre, from the sound of the permanent to the filin song. and discharge, both expressions in full effervescence. Nothing was left out. All the music of the Island sounded in that tremendous Popular Music Festival of 1962 and in others that Urfé was in charge of organizing here and there with didactic intentions. Marta Valdés has a review that Ignacio Piñeiro had become a very popular figure because he was seen everywhere, even on television, to tell how that of son had been in the 1920s.

In those years the National Printing Office, the Icaic, the Casa de las Américas, the Modern Dance Ensemble, the National Folkloric Ensemble, the Folk Research Institute, the Havana Musical Theater and the National School of Art, among others, were founded. institutions that gave a radical turn to culture, while the night, although no longer casinos or tourists, lived a moment of splendor with figures such as La Lupe, Freddy, Elena Burke, Doris de la Torre, Ela O'Farrill or Pacho Alonso , and the popular dance left the societies to settle in the middle of the street with Benny Moré, Aragón or Chappottín. 

However, not only social changes completely dislocated the infrastructure for the diffusion and distribution of Cuban music, but it was “aging” with astonishing speed before the explosive appearance of rock and the pop ballad, whose effects were felt in all the national music of the continent. To this was added the policy of closing the diffusion of foreign music in the country, especially Anglo-Saxon rock, although the Nocturno program broadcast Los Bravos, Los Brincos and other regular copies of the famous The Beatles. But the closing formula, instead of working, was counterproductive in the sense that in the end the young people applied their ingenuity to access the international music in fashion and preferred it rather national

Benny Moré

Benny Moré y su Orquesta Gigante

"I would like to know if there is no defined, clear, open, undoubted policy to reject the tres or bongo player, and stimulate the Yankee guitar and drum player," wrote Dr. Luis Rodríguez Rivera angrily in Granma in 1968.

Magazines and newspapers of the moment revealed the existing concern about the rejection of the youngest towards the sounds of the patio, to the extent that the CNC interceded and sponsored the creation of the Cuban Modern Music Orchestra with the manifest objective of remedying the problem. Excellent musicians and instrumentalists were called to join this group equipped with the timbres that the new generations enjoyed so much (organet, electric guitar, drum, etc.) and although the Mint Pastilla was a hit, for various reasons, the initiative did not achieve expected effects. From this moment on, the cultural institutions of the State will be seen to intervene, not only in the dissemination channels of popular music, but will also try to direct artistic creation itself.

“It was around 1967-1970 when speculation began about the 'crisis' that we attribute, as far as it can be certain, to two basic factors: 'self-blocking', consisting of making us deaf to what was happening abroad, and the creation in 1968 of a centralized hiring system that dismantled the musical movement and destroyed the usual mechanisms of rapprochement between the public and popular musicians ”. This is how Leonardo Acosta has described it in his essential From Drum to Synthesizer.

Finalmente, sin ser convocado por institución alguna, a punto de culminar la década del ’60, Juan Formell da en el clavo con el songo y pone a bailar a la Isla entera con El Martes, La Flaca, Yuya Martínez, La bola de humo and La compota.

Adivinen las opiniones que se suscitaron al respecto…

Rafael Lay: “Many orchestras have their concerns, they try to update Cuban rhythms, bring them to the level of international modern music, but they get out of hand […] and the worst: they move more and more away from the traditional roots that distinguish Cuban music ”.

Enrique Jorrín: “… we have news from countries where this type of music has been brought, from the one manufactured by our orchestras at the moment, and the public has not recognized Cuban music in the performances, look at how far the deformation of the music goes! traditional Cuban music! ”. 

In the light of the present, the songo of Formell and Los Van Van marked a decisive turning point for the development of the son of as much importance for the vitality of the genre, as the innovations to the ensemble format introduced by Arsenio Rodríguez in the 1940s and '40s. the work with the peasant sonero in the jazz band universe, carried out by Benny Moré in the '50s. 

“Today, in the middle of the construction of socialism, an artist detached from the social problems of our people cannot be conceived, […] the artists who emerged from the heat of the revolutionary principles, necessarily have to fulfill an inescapable duty towards their people: to pay back This is the conquests and achievements that he has made possible in the field of cultural improvement and, of course, to do so through an artistic creation consistent with the revolutionary ideology and where ethical and aesthetic values are marked within an eminently didactic character that respond to the social conscience of the proletariat ”. This was the call of the writer Omar González, at the head of the Raúl Gómez García Brigade, predecessor of the Hermanos Saíz Association, as published in 1974 by El Caimán Barbudo.

Improving the quality of texts in popular music then became a task to be accomplished for a good part of the '70s. The guidelines derived from the first Congress of Education and Culture (April 1971) are closely related to this fact, as well as to the effort to maximize the Amateur Movement throughout the country, an impulse that aimed to mass culture and discourage the influence of what is known as star system. Lázaro García illustrates this when he expressed in an interview published in the same monthly: “No one here should become a showman or an exclusive figure; here they sing to the people ”.

Although its members regret the limited diffusion of their works in the media, the Nueva Trova, converted into a movement since 1972, acquired a preponderant role. Headquarters were founded in all the provinces with the mission of attracting potential members. Once inside the movement: “the aesthetic line that we propose is presented to them and they are urged to make a song that better represents the moment in which we live, that is, the struggle of man in the construction of socialism. In this way we intend to stimulate those interested in the new song to influence a better quality of Cuban music in general ”, explained Eduardo Ramos in 1977, then national coordinator of the MNT and author of wonderful songs such as Always you go in the afternoon.

In tune with the moment, in 1976 the Cabaret Tropicana presented the show Cuba por el mundo: a song with everyone and a prayer to a farmer, under the direction of Joaquín M. Condall. The learning of the folkloric forms present in the Latin American political song, very in vogue at that time, was another of the subjects of the time.

In this context, the gaze rested on popular dance music, which was criticized for its macho, tacky, tasteless, anachronistic lyrics, while the musicians, beaten from various sides, did acts of constriction and firm intentions of amendment. 

"[Journalist from Juventud Rebelde] and what about the use of tacky words of bad taste that are so abundant in dance pieces?

[Daniel Rojas, director of La Monumental] We had a number that said: ‘Give it baby, wash my clothes’ and when we finished it we realized that this implied an attitude of machismo that is not in line with the revolutionary process in which we live. Now we have changed the chorus to 'come on baby, let's go' to the pelota '”. 

Juan Formell is another of the musicians questioned in this regard, and after admitting with resignation that the lyrics are "his Achilles heel", he acknowledged in 1977 in an interview for El Caimán Barbudo, that he underestimated the importance of the texts because he considered that "a A dancer is not interested in hearing the lyrics, but the music ”. What would the social history of those years and the following be without Juan Formell's lyrics!

Within the Nueva Trova, a critical review of the repertoire was also generated, not only of the bolero vitrolero, but of the compositions of Mario Fernández Porta, René Touzet, Juan Bruno Tarraza, Julio Gutiérrez and other authors of the 1940s and ' fifty. The traditional trova in the style of Corona y Garay, and the songs of the filin are saved from scrutiny. In 1976, for example, singer-songwriter Mike Porcel declared to Juventud Rebelde: “The most popular music is undoubtedly popular, but it is not always artistically good. I mean danceable and certain ballads. The texts fluctuate between bad taste and cheap sentimentality and this is not educational for the new generations. I do not ask for that music an exile. It would be enough to balance both genders and the bad would fall under its own weight ”.

The truth is that at the moment of truth, against all odds, Los Latinos, La Monumental, Rumbavana, Reyes 73, La Ritmo Oriental, La Original de Manzanillo, Los Bocucos, Los Van Van, La Revé, La Aragón and dozens Orchestras continued to encourage popular dances in working class circles and in the famous Mambí room in the Tropicana parking lot. Just in 1976, 74 musicians with excellent academic training joined the graduates of the National School of Art. By the end of this turbulent decade, Irakere, Afrocuba, Son 14, Síntesis, September 5 and Yaguarimú had already been founded, among other groups of the highest level that would chart very interesting paths for Cuban music. 

And in what could be described as a successful turn of the wheel, in 1978 television created Para Bailar, a space that young people from all over the country waited for, on Sunday afternoons, with enormous anticipation. In 1978, Eduardo Cáceres Manso, director of the popular television space, told Juventud Rebelde that “the idea [was] to make a program about dance competitions that had a youthful tonic and that the main objective of (sic) the traditional values of our music and ventures into others ”. Everything was danced in Para Bailar, from danzones and sones to the latest issue of Los Van Van or Barry White.

At the same time, festivals such as Son, in Manzanillo, and Benny Moré, among others, were organized, which had theoretical events, which indicates that cultural policy had been rethought, for the good of traditional and contemporary popular dance music.

A la postre, no obstante la percepción de acabose total en el ámbito de la música cubana, el saldo que arrojaron los ’70 revela un repertorio perdurable y de excepcional belleza en las canciones de la Nueva Trova. Corresponden a este periodo verdaderas obras de arte como los LP Días y Flores, de Silvio Rodríguez (1975) y Pablo Milanés (1976), de Pablito, y muchas otras piezas imprescindibles grabadas por el Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del Icaic, con Emiliano Salvador al piano, sin pasar por alto la obra de Pedro Luis Ferrer, Mike Porcel, Vicente Feliú, Noel Nicola y Sara González, entre otros trovadores. En la música bailable, como ya se enunció, aconteció otro tanto y en el también apaleado universo de las canciones ligeras o baladas; Beatriz Márquez, por ejemplo, grabó composiciones de enorme significación para varias generaciones de cubanos. 

Portada del GES

Portada del GES

Closing the loop ... for now

The '80s, like most decades in the history of Cuban popular music, brought their own critical state up their sleeves and the lyrics received, of course, their corresponding quota of styles. But in that decade the discussions focused, among other multiple aspects, on denying the existence of salsa from New York and Puerto Rico and, on the performances of Oscar de León on the Island, who according to the generalized criteria, managed to dance in the own house of the top ...

The subject has been treated in abundance inside and outside the island, so I will only refer to two facts that are related to each other: first, timba, as a musical product, is one of the tangible results of the rigorous training academic, free, established by the government from the first years of the revolutionary triumph. With a precedent in Irakere's work, José Luis Cortés conceives one of the most sophisticated, elaborate and complex popular dance music for the ballroom that Cuba has produced in its history.

El tema ha sido tratado en abundancia dentro y fuera de la Isla, por lo que sólo me referiré a dos hechos que guardan relación entre sí: en primer término, la timba, como producto musical, es uno de los resultados tangibles de la rigurosa formación académica, gratuita, que establece el gobierno desde los primeros años del triunfo revolucionario.  Con un antecedente en el trabajo de Irakere, José Luis Cortés concibe una de las músicas de baile popular para salón, más sofisticadas, elaboradas y complejas que haya producido Cuba en su historia.

Although things had changed a lot for the '90s, something of that kind of reluctance towards popular dance music was still around, but this time, as it had not happened in a long time, it was the turn of the offended. There were those who did not assimilate that very close-up that the popular dance occupied; its massiveness, the staging of the groups, the debauchery of the dancers on the dance floor and the stardom of its protagonists. It is a pity not to have at hand the articles of Félix López in El Caimán Barbudo from those years and that the pandemic prevents consulting them in the library to recall the tenor of the attacks received by the timba, an expression he made of the '90s , a new golden age for Cuban music.

Aunque era mucho lo que habían cambiado las cosas para los ’90, algo de esa suerte de desgano hacia la música popular bailable merodeaba todavía por ahí, pero esta vez, como hacía tiempo no ocurría, le tocaba el turno al ofendido. Hubo quien no asimiló ese primerísimo primer plano que ocupó el bailable popular; su masividad, la puesta en escena de las agrupaciones, el desenfreno de las bailadoras en la pista y el estrellato de sus protagonistas. Es una pena no tener a mano los artículos de Félix López en The Bearded Cayman de esos años y que la pandemia impida consultarlos en la biblioteca para traer a la memoria el tenor de los ataques recibidos por la timba, expresión que hizo de los ’90, una nueva época de oro para la música cubana. 

What I have at hand to close this cycle and connect with the beginning is a testimony from Helio Orovio to the Salsa Cubana magazine, about the texts of the battered timba: “[…] there are lyrics that are not only vulgar, but also poorly elaborated; [the musicians] are technically very good [but] they have flaws in the cultural order. The creators of before had low academic level, some were almost illiterate like Sindo Garay; however, they had a culture, a communication with the poets, with the writers […] ”.

What would Don Gaspar Agüero have said if he had known that at the turn of almost a century, the lyrics of Sindo Garay, in which he found such great defects, would constitute a true model of the art of composing popular songs with refinement and good taste .

By the way, I witnessed that José Luis Cortés himself, in a recent tribute in the Jelengue de la Egrem patio, regarding the National Music Prize that was finally awarded to him, expressed with the humor that characterizes him that his texts, so reviled at the time, they were comparable to Shakespeare when compared to the lyrics of today's reggaeton.

This exercise will serve to review the vicissitudes of popular music in the twentieth century to confront with measure and common sense the analysis of reggaeton, a controversial expression that concerns us today and on which I do not intend to comment, aware as I am of the tremendous and pernicious traps that carries the nostalgic comparison with the music that has been lived. However, when studying a musical event or period, I try to do so in the light of a very useful reflection written by Fernando Ortiz in La Africanía de la Música Folklórica de Cuba: “Each social situation has its own music, its dances, its songs, its verses and its peculiar instruments ”.

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Adriana Orejuela Martínez

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