Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces "Fear of
Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto
14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 22 March 2017 – Hip Hop has
become that redoubt of rebellion that other musical genres, like rock
and roll, used to embody. The Trakean2 Fesitval, which ended Monday in
Camaguey, gave voice to performers who sing as if they were shooting
truths at the public, but censorship against Cuban rapper Rashel
Cervantes – known as Rapshela – who lives in Spain, overshadowed the event.
Also missing were rappers who sing their lyrics in marginal
neighborhoods where the genre enjoys the greatest vitality. But that is
what was decided by the Brothers Saiz Association, who organized the
ninth edition of the event with 40 participating rappers, including MCs
(Masters of Ceremony), breakdancers and graffiti artists. Cockfights,
the improvised verbal confrontations between musicians, were the moments
most appreciated by the public.
Rapshela could not appear before the public in spite of having travelled
to the Island for the occasion. Problems with her cultural visa and
reproof by the organizers prevented it.
After spending her own money for the plane ticket from Barcelona, where
she lives, Rapshela ran into the cancellation of the presumed
institutional promise to pay for her travel from Havana to Camaguey. She
managed to arrive nevertheless, but the obstacles had not ended: as a
resident abroad she did not receive authorization to appear in time.
"As soon as I arrived I went to the AHS, and the organizer [Eliecer
Velazquez] told me that I could not sing because I was living abroad,"
she tells this daily. Nor was the artist included in the lodging and
food options that other guests enjoyed. A situation that she regrets
"after four months of speaking" with the event promoters.
In a gesture of solidarity, Los Compinches, a group from Pinar del Rio,
invited Rapshela to accompany them to the stage. But when the artist
began to sing, the Festival organizers ordered the microphone sound
lowered. A little later the spectacle came to an end.
The event generated an intense debate when other musicians and the
public clamored for her to be permitted to sing, but the organizers
proved inflexible. Although they declined to give their version of what
happened, Eliecer Velazquez justified himself to the artist, arguing
that it was the first time that he had organized a festival, and he did
not know "that there was so much paperwork to do." The promoter
explained to the singer that she sought the cultural visa too late and
that is why they did not grant it.
Among the attendees, many considered it absurd that a Cuban had to wait
for a cultural visa to appear in the city where she was born, so they
saw what happened as censorship masked in bureaucratic delays.
The organization also had disagreements with some lyrics by the group
Los Compinches, in which marijuana consumption is promoted and Cuba's
economic situation is criticized.
Before the microphones went mute, the spectators had shown great
enthusiasm and repeated choruses like Don't step on the herb, smoke it.
A second song increased nervousness of the authorities when the singer
explained that the video clip that accompanied the lyrics had been censored.
Joaquin Corbillon Perez, member of the group, does not explain what they
did wrong although he argues that the Brothers Saiz Association is not
responsible for the situation. "The guilty ones are much higher and are
the ones who prohibit it," he said.
The AHS director from Pinar del Rio, Denis Perez Acanda, also a member
of Los Compinches, defended the lyrics of his song and characterized as
an "act of repression" the fact that the organizers did not let Rapshela
For Rapshela the problems that she suffered transcend the music scene.
"The Cuban people are censored," she says. In her opinion "rap is a
weapon for expression" and "a window to liberty, but here they are
scared of liberty."
The organizer of the Havana female rap festival and manager of the Somos
Mucho Más (We Are Much More) project, Yamay Mejias Hernandez, known as
La Fina (The Fine One), showed her solidarity with Rapshela because "she
is Cuban, Camagueyan, and has never performed in her land. What she
wanted was to introduce herself and for her people to hear her."
Mejias Hernandez, also a feminist activist, told 14ymedio about the
festival's other problems. "It needs a little more organization, maybe
more coordination in the places where they hold the concerts at night."
She thinks that Cristo Park, a site intended to offer concerts, did not
meet the requirements for nighttime performances.
"There have to be more theoretical events like discussions, meetings,
book readings," adds Mejias Hernandez. "They need more female presence
because at this event only two female rappers appeared." The singer
asserts that throughout the Island there are many females who are
connected to the genre.
Translated by Mary Lou Keel
Source: Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces
"Fear of Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto – Translating Cuba -