“This masterful portrait of the rap and reggaetón scenes in modern Cuba surpasses existing work in its level of insight, depth, and contemporaneity. Geoffrey Baker offers a thoroughly original street-level ethnography of the local rap scene and illuminates the often contradictory workings of the various bureaucratic institutions involved in popular music. He also develops a significant critique of foreign portrayals of contemporary Cuban music culture and of the local/global dynamics of ‘imitating’ foreign rap (or another genre) as opposed to ‘nationalizing’ it with sprinkles of local musical flavor.”—Peter Manuel, author of Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae
Buena Vista in the Club: Rap, Reggaetón, and Revolution in Havanaby Geoffrey Baker
In Buena Vista in the Club, Geoffrey Baker traces the trajectory of the Havana hip hop scene from the late 1980s to the present and analyzes its partial eclipse by reggaetón. While Cuban officials initially rejected rap as “the music of the enemy,” leading figures in the hip hop scene soon convinced certain cultural institutions to accept and then promote rap as part of Cuba’s national culture. Culminating in the creation of the state-run Cuban Rap Agency, this process of “nationalization” drew on the shared ideological roots of hip hop and the Cuban nation and the historical connections between Cubans and African Americans. At the same time, young Havana rappers used hip hop, the music of urban inequality par excellence, to critique the rapid changes occurring in Havana since the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union fell, its subsidy of Cuba ceased, and a tourism-based economy emerged. Baker considers the explosion of reggaetón in the early 2000s as a reflection of the “new materialism” that accompanied the influx of foreign consumer goods and cultural priorities into “sociocapitalist” Havana. Exploring the transnational dimensions of Cuba’s urban music, he examines how foreigners supported and documented Havana’s growing hip hop scene starting in the late 1990s and represented it in print and on film and CD. He argues that the discursive framing of Cuban rap played a crucial part in its success.
Meet the Author
Geoffrey Baker is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of Imposing Harmony: Music and Society in Colonial Cuzco, also published by Duke University Press.
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