La Reyna y La Real: women and rappers against all odds

lareinaylareal-636x358Yadira Pintado, La Real, is a native of the Havana neighborhood of Jesús María. She trained as a social worker. She studied psychology but in the second year she left college to devote herself to music. Reyna Hernández, La Reyna, was born in the Luyanó neighborhood. She has a daughter and studied Chemical Engineering.

Both women are self-taught and receive singing lessons from Professor Robertina Morales. In 2010 they met in a rap club. Today they are recognized in the field of Hip Hop as La Reyna y La Real. Three years ago they joined as artists with the Cuban Rap Agency. They are also members of the Hermanos Saíz Association that awarded them the scholarship ‘El reino de este mundo’.

In 2016, La Reyna and La Real won a Cubadisco prize for ‘Miky y Repa’, their first studio album recorded with the TumiMusic label. Another award they have won is the Cuerda Viva Prize.

Cuban youth arts agency Associacion Hermanos Saiz spoke to La Real recently about their experiences.
“We started working together until 2012 when we officially became a group with a band,” says La Real.
Why do you call yourself La Real?
La Real: La Real, does not come from the word royalty, as some people think. I was in a studio where I recorded my first songs with Champion Records and I was looking for a stage name. I realized that almost all my songs were about real life facts and that’s when the idea came to me.

How did you get interested in rap?
La Real: I did not know that rap existed until some friends gave me a cassette of American music. At the end there was a Cuban rap song. It was by the Anónimo Consejo group. When I found out that they were Cubans I started to investigate that musical genre…Some friends in the area had a rap group. I wrote my first song and started working with them. I liked rap because I could express many things and get away from some bad things because my hometown is quite complicated. ..Reyna belonged to the Orishas Fan Club. There she met Carmen González who had started a project called ‘Alzar la voz’. She wanted to write a song so she read lots of books to learn. She was inspired and wrote a song where she talked about menstruation. ”

What has it meant for you to insert yourself in an environment practically dominated by men?
La Real: It was a challenge to insert ourselves in this world but, at least for me it was not so difficult because I always saw that I could do the same as men. Despite criticism from family and friends, I continued to do my job with tremendous courage. For Reyna, it was more difficult because she was a mother. She started in music after having her daughter. It is sad that in Cuba there are not many women rappers. Currently we do not amount to ten.

How have you felt the support of the Cuban Rap Agency?
Within what is possible, the Agency invites us to some events. The support is not greater because it is not possible.

In a scene where other musical genres prevail, rap is going through a hard time. Why do you think that has happened? What do you think about the presence of rap in audiovisual media?
La Real: I think that it is down to what the public want. Now many young people have no desire to think about problems. They just want to dance and relax. Rap is characterized by having a lot of text that makes people aware and usually is not good for dancing. I think that’s why some people have moved away from the genre. ..The media also stigmatizes us a lot because of the protest music we make and the absence of rappers on radio and television distances us even more from the public.

However, some singers are also dedicated to protest song and have greater media coverage. The protest of the nueva trova singers is less strong than that of the rappers. We carried the stigma of ‘Los Aldeanos’ who were very direct. Many people hear the word rap and think that we are going to talk about the same thing as they did.

How has the Hermanos Saíz Association supported you?
Every time there is an opportunity, they invite us to sing at the Madriguera. We have performed several times in the Cuba Pavilion. The biggest support was to have received the ‘El reino de este mundo’ scholarship that allowed us to make a video clip on the theme ‘Que se queme el arroz’.

In summer 2015 at the Art Fair in La Rampa, Havana, the Cuban recording studio EGREM launched the video game and video clip of ‘La Superclaria’ as a result of a collaboration agreement between the Animation Studios of ICAIC and the University of Computer Science. How did you come to make the theme tune of La Superclaria?
Israel Rojas needed a woman to sing that song, to rap and at the same time to sing the melody. A mutual friend of ours introduced me to Israel and for me that was something very big because I have been a fan of ‘Buena Fe’ since the group emerged. Israel gave me the lyrics of ‘La Superclaria’ on the same day and by four o’clock I was already recording it. I got very nervous but it was also very beautiful.

Right now do La Reyna and La Real have a regular home?
We do not have any fixed space. We had a bad experience in ‘El Diablo Tun Tun’ where we realized that first you need a public to be able to be a club fixture. Where we do perform almost every month, is in the Cuban Art Factory (FAC).

What is the mission of La Reyna and La Real?
We want women to identify with our music. We transmit our experiences as something positive because we consider ourselves strong, and we do not let ourselves be pushed aside by men. We would like to have greater acceptance in the media because several times we have been told to go away without the person listening to our ideas.

What about an event that brings together women rap artists? Have you not tried to organise one between you all?
That would be a dream but in Cuba there is no women’s rap event. Every time they visit Cuba, Krudas Cubensi, women rappers who live in the United States, try to do concerts where we all join together. If someone organized such an event, it would be very good for all of us.

Link to original interview on Asociacion Hermanos Saiz website in Spanish

First published November 2017