Cuban duo Buena Fe sings of love and reconciliation, affirms musician Israel Rojas

Buena Fe (Yoel Martínez e Israel Rojas) performing at Casa de las Américas, La Habana

This May Cuban group Buena Fe while touring Spain has been subjected to insults and apparent campaigns to boycott their performances. They have received threats and defamations such as that they are “terrorists who raise funds for the dictatorship in Cuba”.

Director, Israel Rojas, was upset, basically because both he and the rest of the group belong to a musical tradition that sings “of love, reconciliation and peace” and so they do not understand such hatred and tension towards them, simply for not falling in line with the political ideology of Cubans in exile and criticising the situation on the island.

In an interview with Mexican press La Jornada, Rojas described this campaign and how two concerts have already been cancelled.

Why is there this campaign against you?

–There are a number of platforms that dominate everything related to Cuba on the internet and they are managed from outside the island with a specific agenda against the Cuban government. It is a media system that largely prioritises the artistic or personal assassination of any artist who has artistic capital or power within the country and who does not oppose the Cuban government. Buena Fe has clearly had a position of constructive criticism of the Cuban process. We have not been, you could say, kind to the government, but we also understand that this criticism has always been constructive and not to endanger the independence and sovereignty of our people. Yes, we are committed to the construction of socialism, of a better society, with the lifting of the blockade and with the need for an unconditional understanding between Cuba and the United States.

–And I understand that this position is uncomfortable for the so-called Cuban exile, especially the most extreme sectors…

-That’s how it is. From there they put us on the radar to perpetrate our media, artistic and personal murder. We have not given in to these pressures and we refuse to distort our music. We do trova and this has always been linked to social processes, so it would make no sense that someone who follows in the footsteps of Silvio Rodríguez or Pablo Milanés does not have an opinion of his own and remains silent. And these attacks against us began around 2010, but in recent years they have become ferocious, especially as a result of the construction of cultural phenomena such as “Patria y vida” or of all that supposed intelligentsia against the Cuban government in the diaspora or in the island. Somehow they want to show that there is no one who supports the government, and they attack us because we are one of the few groups that do not give up. Our show is not political, we do not do a militant concert, in fact many of our songs have a high dose of criticism of the Cuban social reality. We do not praise Fidel or Lenin or Evo Morales or Hugo Chávez. We talk about love, reconciliation and peace.

–I understand that the first boycott in Spain was at the concert in Madrid…

-That’s how it is. We have played in Paris, Miami, Geneva and right here in Madrid, we have played here eight or nine times, and there has never been a problem, but this time three people from those groups came and began to shout slogans with their way of seeing the world, such as “Patria y vida” or “freedom for the political prisoners of Cuba”. I was not aware of what was happening, because the situation was resolved immediately because they were evicted from the concert hall.

From then on, did the campaign against you intensify?

-Yes that’s right. They began to harass each of the venues where we planned to perform, with unbearable cyberbullying and some of the owners became frightened, so they cancelled our performances in Zamora and Salamanca. But as a result of all this, a solidarity campaign began that has caused many people to open their doors for us to give more concerts in Spain.

–What do you think bothers them so much about the music your group makes?

–They feel betrayed because they say that the social criticism that we have always made, from the beginning, is not to destroy the Cuban government. I have said that it is an aberration to think that our songs seek social collapse, because we do want social transformation, but through a peaceful and democratic path in the canons of Cuba, institutionally and calmly, as is already the case in the country. Perhaps I would like the process to be faster and democratic participation to be more direct, but nothing more.

–And saying this in Cuba hasn’t been a problem for you?

-Never. Perhaps some militant of the extreme left or orthodox communist feels a little bad, but they have never banned me from singing a song, nor have I stopped doing concerts with freedom. We know how to sing and we are going to do it wherever we are invited. Nothing and no one will shut up our voices.

Read original report by La Jornada in Spanish