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Tuesday, 4 April 2017
Music, Cinema, Memory, Identity
by: Juan Antonio Garcia Borrero
Yesterday I had the privilege to participate as a speaker in the theoretical event conceived for the Festival of Tinajón del Camagüey. A real luxury to have on the panel Dr. Verónica Fernández Díaz and Maestro Reinaldo Echemendía Estrada, who spoke about the son groups in Camagüey.
I must confess that when I was invited I was rather concerned, as the theme revolved around the presence of the son in different artistic forms in Camagüey, and I am far from being a musicologist (although I like music), and in the case of the video made in the city, we have not yet created a database that enabled us to identify all the ways in which son has been used on our screens.
But it was listening to the excellent dissertations of my colleagues, lectures loaded with exquisite information, I felt that it was necessary to abandon the local and to talk about universal strategies for what affects us as citizens of the 21st century.
So I began by quoting the great historian Eric Hobsbawn with this remark he makes in his book History of the Twentieth Century: "The destruction of the past, or rather of the social mechanisms that link the contemporary experience of the individual with that of previous generations, is one of the most characteristic and strange phenomena of the end of the twentieth century. For the most part, the young men and women of this turn of the century grow in a sort of permanent present with no organic relation to the past of the time in which they live. This gives historians, whose task is to remember what others forget, more transcendence than they have ever had in these final years of the second millennium. But for that very reason they must be more than mere chroniclers, rememberers and compilers, although this is also a necessary function of historians. "
That is the great challenge that we have to preserve the cultural memory of the nation. At a time like ours, where everything seems to be within reach of a click, we actually run the risk of not holding anything back. It is necessary, then, to establish alliances that operate within the spirit of collective creativity that in an informal way characterizes the era.
In the case of video and music, these alliances have been working for some time. Only, in a general sense, they respond to that chaotic flow of images that industry (the hegemonic) circulates through the video clip and the promotion of clicking. However, it is also possible to intervene from the institutional point of view (as the French situationists would have wanted) by creating scenarios that make visible what already exists, and yet remain in the shadows.
Of course, as Hobsbawn says, here the new historian would have to put aside the mania his predecessors had to turn cold data into a sterile object of worship, to invite his listeners to participate in a game where "the historical" contributes to fertilize the new.
I showed clips of two films made at different times (Y tenemos sabor/ 1967, by Sara Gómez, and Rolando Díaz's Los pájaros tirándole a la escopeta 1984), as Cuban examples that can describe the good marriage that has been established in Cuban cinema between popular music and the cinematographic camera.
I believe that music and video, beyond what is revealed on the surface, complement each other in the submerged culture. For me the cinema is mostly memory: when we watch a movie (whether documentary or fiction) we are witnessing the absent: what we see on the screen is not there.
Cuban music, on the other hand, is identity: it speaks of what we are constantly. Regardless of the physical, ideological, temporal distances, music tends to reveal itself as a great bridge where we all recognize ourselves even in the midst of the most turbulent waters. This can be seen in a documentary such as Rigoberto López's Soy yo a la salsa (1996), where the Cuban nation is a large imagined community.
Memory and identity, then, would be among the priorities we cannot afford to lose. And video and music can be two great allies.