Friday, 5 September 2008

Radio Freekinternational

Nostalgia (n): From Greek nostos, 'a return home'. A wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.

Hello, everybody and welcome to the first Radio Freekinternational, live from London.

What is Radio Freekinternational? For non-Cubans, who might be puzzled by this hybrid of a word, half bastardised English and half Cuban, the explanation is simple. RFI is the brainchild of one of the better blogs on the Cuban blogoshephere nowadays, generacionasere. It is a valuable and laudable attempt to unite those of us (and those before us) who grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s when music in the Anglo-Saxon lexicon was frowned upon by the Cuban government, if not outright banned.

The word ‘freeki’, ‘friqui’, or ‘freaki’ denoted a person who was keen on rock music. Another version that I saw on people’s school bags when I was younger was ‘Free Kiss’. What cannot be denied is that originally the word had a pejorative meaning, aiming to offend the person being addressed. This changed with the passing of time and ‘freeki’ was reclaimed quite justly by the rock community in the Caribbean island.

There’s a lovely if also sad story behind Radio Freekinternational and what it stands for and at the risk of coming across as a boring, old fuddy-duddy I will try to sum it up in a few paragraphs.
After the Mariel boatlift in 1980 when thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Cubans left the country, the government clamped down on anything English. Not even Huckleberry Hound and Yogi the Bear were saved from the cull. They were replaced by Zé Carnero and 'El Rancho del Pájaro Amarillo'. I was 9 at the time and felt the change straight away. It would be two more years before the situation went back to ‘normal’. By then my generation was coming strong as a group of people who started to question their surroundings and did not take no for an answer. By the time I started secondary school in ’83, the country was gripped in an Oscarmania frenzy. This was as a result of the popular Venezuelan salsa musician Oscar D’ León’s visit to Cuba after which even the local music scene had to pull their socks up and catch up with the times. Visually, Oscar D’ León represented to many Cubans a carefree and blithe way of performing, not tied to dogmas or prejudgments. At that time the musical spectrum in Cuba was still dictated by whatever orders came from above and radio stations had very limited resources, ergo, music in English was poorly promoted. If you can imagine a plug blocking a water tap and water accumulating inside the tap (or faucet, whichever way you want to call it), that’s what the situation was like. And as it usually happens in real life, nature won. The tap burst out.

First it was Madonna. Then, Cindy. Or maybe both at the same time. Michael had already been popular for a long time as well as Kool and the Gang and Earth, Wind and Fire. There were other artists the generation before mine used to listen to clandestinely, like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. My peers, though, caught the Zeitgeist of rock and pop from the 80s. And the result put paid to the government’s efforts to control a youth that used to pump up condoms as if they were balloons and tossed them in the air every Friday evening in front of the Havana University Alma Mater whilst listening to Moncada (a local pop band).

Then in 1987 (or ’88, my memory fails me) a second huge cultural phenomenon occurred. This one would turn the Cuban youth upside down and blaze the trail for a lot of Cuban musicians who were trying to find their voice, far from the normal conventions. A 24-, or 25-year-old Argentinian musician from Rosario arrived in Cuba armed only with a powerful repertoire of songs and a pair of trainers, of different colour each. By the time Fito Páez left, he was a legend and Havana was never the same. Wherever you went you were sure to find people offering their heart out, singing about a girl with a horn under her heart or chastising rushed decisions, especially the ones that cost lives. Through Fito Páez, I learnt about León Gieco, Charly García, Espinetta, Baglietto and many more Argentinian artists. I did not stop there and came face to face with Los Prisioneros for the first time. My younger self remembers a time when despite the fact that we were still getting the music out of date, at least we were getting it.

The media caught on the act and certain radio and television programmes appeared on the horizon with a bolder musical agenda. ‘El Programa de Ramón’, ‘En Confianza’, ‘A Capella’, Juanito’s Camacho’s daily outings on Radio Ciudad de la Habana and on Sundays evenings on the same station. Carlos Figueroa and Alfredo Balmaseda both promoted home-grown talent on their daily cultural timetable ‘Hoy (Today)’. It was an intoxicating time that shaped the generation I belonged to then and still belong to.

Because this generation, whether they were born before 1959 or after is united by a unique desire to express themselves in a coherent way. We are Jackson Pollock’s paintbrushes, dripping different hues onto our empty canvas, Cuba, ignoring the master’s instructions. We’ve foregone the hand guiding us through the blank space and have chosen to design that space ourselves. And that’s what the Cuban Blogosphere has become, a formidable force of debate, discussion, acceptance and respect.

Some of you, my dear non-Cuban readers will watch the clips below and will probably think that this is guilty-pleasure music. Well, no, this is just pleasure, there’s no guilt involved. The music below represents a stage of our lives that, thanks to this marvellous medium, the internet, can be relived and experienced again through the collective memory of a nation in exile.

I also know for a fact that many of you will watch the clips and will reminisce upon your own halcyon days of yesteryear. For that’s what nostalgia is about, reminiscing about the past with both feet planted in the present and looking determinedly to the future. And yes, you’ll probably shed a tear; I know I have these last few days whilst collating the list.

So, once again, this is just pleasure, no pain.

And the playlist, I hear you ask? Ha, ha. No, no playlist, my lovely little puppies. I am playing Cruella de Vil tonight and will delight in keeping you guessing as you sift through the almost one hundred clips included in this collection.

I would like to thank two blogs without whose help I would not have been able to host Radio Freekinternational tonight, nor would I have met the fantastic people who make up the Cuban Blogosphere. And they are Algodar for his blog ‘Blogs Sobre Cuba (Blogs about Cuba’ and generacionasere for coming up with the idea of Radio Freekinternational.

So, let’s enjoy this ride together, we all deserve it.

Disclaimer: Some clips contain some swearing, so readers/fellow bloggers, you have been warned.

Thanks.

This post is dedicated to ‘El Plátano’, exceptional Cuban photographer who died earlier this year. R.I.P.


49 comments:

Jinetero… ¿y qué? said...

Coño asere, buena talla esta.

Te faltó la visita de Edde Grant a La Habana. Su concierto en el anfiteatro de La Habana fue un vacilón.
A mi me gustó siempre tanto el rock como la salsa. Aunque a decir verdad de las bandas fuertes conocí muy pocas (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd y alguna más). Yo preferí el rock menos perretúo al estilo de este:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bqgy1mebh8

¡Qué recuerdos!

Jinetero… ¿y qué? said...

¡Coño sorry!

Should I write in English here?

Lena...en algun lugar del mundo said...

Tremenda introduccion! Es verdad que La Habana nunca fue lo mismo despues de Fito.. (y Jinetero, yo estuve ahi, en ese concierto de Eddie Grant, no recuerdo el concierto pero si la sensacion del momento!)

pasaba por aca rapido, ya volvere...

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

hey what's UP, cuban bro'

here we are now, entertain us ;)

nirvana - school

willow said...

It certainly is hard for some of us non-Cubans to realize what freedoms we enjoy.

Cruella is right! You are making us do some work here. ;)

Intriguing post, as always! Enjoy the weekend, dear friend.

Willow x o

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

si receurdo a Eddie en Varadero,
dale, que vamos a poner bueno esto...

Eddy Grant - Electric Avenue (Ringbang Remix)

pero fito encendio una mecha que no pudo apoagarse luego.

t.

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

fito

Fito Paez - 11 y 6

Fito Paez - Giros 1985

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

mas de FItO , para saltar desde los 80's, los 90's y ahora el 19 de Sep en esta puta ciudad de Miami, donde igual como siempre y como en todos lados "MATAN A POBRES CORAZONES"

Fito Paez Ciudad de pobres corazones Naturaleza sangre Gran

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

something to grunge... after all we came from "X" and "Y"...
Low

Alice In Chains - Heaven Beside You

Filter - Hey Man, Nice Shot

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

Music can change our view of the world.
Music can change our moods.
Music change our perceptions of ourselves and what we feel in our souls. Our memories contain so much more than just pictures; sounds, smells, tastes and even feelings can trigger a memory or emotional response.
Te dejo por ahora con una que me cambio la vida.

nirvana - smells like teen spirit

un abrazo, tony.

Betty said...

hola chicos, acabo de llegar de la calle de una descarga por Alcalá con dos socias del Instituto de hace 30 años, vengo ahora Cuban...Yoyo me alegra verte, espero que todo mejor, un abrazo

Betty said...

Hi again, I don´t know if this matches very well today Radio Freeky spirit, nothing about author songs or grunge, but I feel now emotionally triggered by this Masterpiece, huges

A Cuban In London said...

Que bola, mi gente, hello, willow, nice to see you popping by. Acabo de llegar de la calle, me falta por limpiar el ban-o de abajo y fregar, y despues de esas tareas hogaren-as, estoy con ustedes.

Esto es vivo desde LONDRES!

Gracias a todos. Yoyo, asere, betty, les voy a subir los videos en un santiamén.

Saludos desde Londres.

A Cuban In London said...

Y no, yoyo, no hay que hablar. Aqui la unica lengua es la musica, que nos une a todos.

Yuo don't need to speak English, you just need to love music.

Greetings from London.

A Cuban In London said...

Quise decir que no hay que hablar inglés, yoyo. Disculpa, es el apuro y la cantidad de cosas que me quedan por hacer.

Saludos desde Londres.

A Cuban In London said...

Quiero decirles a todos que los videos que solicitaron ya estan en la lista. Algunos ya los habia puesto. Yoyo, por supuesto que Tears for Fears esta clavado ahi desde hace rato. Asere, como podriamos dejar a Nirvana fuera del potaje?

Saludos desde Londres.

Lena...en algun lugar del mundo said...

Tremendos recuerdos todos estos videos, que recuento historico musical!!!!! ... y el de Foreigner "I want to know what love is"?

Al Godar said...

Hi la gente!
Aqui Al Godar reportando...
Muy buen ambiente.

A Cuban In London said...

Lena, ya te colgue el video.

Buenas noches (aqui en Londres son casi las doce).

Bueno, voy a acostar al CubaNiche en lonDON. Voy a dejar la radio puesta todo el fin de semana y seguire actualizando la lista en la medida de mis posibilidades. Sigan mandando peticiones porque vamos por 91 videos y la capacidad es de 200. Asi que queda tela por donde cortar.

Saludos desde Londres.

Al Godar said...

Muy buenos recuerdos.
Los ochentas...

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

dale que llegamos!!! Empieza ESTO

Start Me Up (China)

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

al plátano,
pero también a los miles de locos que en medio de aquel 'PERIODO espAcial' cantábamos está canción, sin calesita y sin suzuki pero llenos de esperanzas.

Juan Carlos Baglietto - El Loco de la Calesita

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

a los que se quedaron, a los freekis que van a descargar a la calle G, a yoani, a gorki y todos juntos a los amigos y los N-migos.

Tango Feroz - El Amor es mas Fuerte

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

deberíamos hablar más sobre todo aquello que nos hizo salir de Cuba y de esta experiencia de encontrarnos, utilizando a la isla y a los recuerdos como un puente para construir la memoria histórica de varias generaciones. ESo queremos, para eso blogueamos y dedicamos nuestro tiempo.
Un yiti y un abrazo a la pandilla que pase por aquí.

Tango Feroz - El oso - Antonio Birabent

A Cuban In London said...

Estoy aqui y antes de irme a comer te subo los videos. Espera un poquitico.

Betun pa' ti! :-)

Saludos desde Londres.

A Cuban In London said...

Llegamos a 101, aseres! Carajo, el amor es mas fuerte que todos los gobiernos y todos los imperios!

Saludos desde Londres, pandilla.

Aguaya Berlín said...

Llego con un día de atraso.......... :-(

Cuban, te la comiste con el post! Me acuerdo como si fuera ahora del concierto del Oscar en el Parque Lenin... "dame cable, dame cable"...

Madonna y Cindy eran mis ídolos. Y con "La Conga" de Gloria Estefan bailaba que aquello era mucho. No me perdía un Colorama los domingos así estuviera en la beca y me di una lija tremenda cuando me regalaron un longplay de Air Supply. Todavía mi hermano lo cuida como oro molido en la casa.

Qué tiempos aquellos, eh!!!

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

Excellent article! Gracias Cuban, cuantos recuerdos.

I remember seeing the faces of the young people when they left the theater after watching the film “Tanguito”; everybody had the eyes light up. The act of listening to rock music in Cuba in the 90’s was the equivalent to defend the possibility to think and choose a different life style. A life different from the one the government had planed for us.
It was precisely looking for a different alternative that millions of young people of my generation decided to leave the Island. Even though, we left Cuba, Cuba never left us. We find our Island in the songs and moments like this that make us live all over again, sharing our memories.
Well done Cuban!!!

Keep on Rocking CABallerooo!!!

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

A toda la gente que no vemos hace mucho tiempo le dedicamos esta,

Tango Feroz - Presente

porque venimos de un tiempo en que muchos cantábamos esta otra: Como un Rayo

si a cada rato metemos estas cumbanchas por encima de las fronteras, entonces que carajo, EL MUNDO ES NUESTRO. ; )
nos pillamos,
maylin y tony.

A Cuban In London said...

Agu, me dejaste bota'o. Colorama! Si, te acuerdas? Y se acuerdan de Supertope? Habia Supertope Nacional y Supertope Internacional. Con diez canciones por cabezas y aquel Jose Jose o JJ que nunca fallaba en marcar tarjeta.

Asere, como no me voy a acordar de "Tango Feroz"? La vi cuando la estrenaron en el Festival de Cine. En aquella ocasion la vi dos veces y despues otra vez mas cuando la pusieron en el Yara, ya que yo era miembro. Te subo los dos temitas tuyos enseguida.

Saludos desde Londres.

A Cuban In London said...

Asere, que tiempo hacia que no veia el video ese de Habana! Pila burujon pun-ao de an-os! Ese no fue el que filmaron en el Anfiteatro del Parque Lenin?

Saludos desde Londres.

Yoli said...

Chico que bueno esta este post. Gracias por invitarme!

A Cuban In London said...

Y gracias a ti por venir!

Saludos desde Londres.

High Desert Diva said...

I hadn't even considered a ban on music...

We (Americans) take our freedom for granted.

Thanks for this post.

A Cuban In London said...

And thanks for popping by. I hope it brought some memories back to you, too.

Greetings from London.

Yoana said...

Wow Cuban, this is awesome!

Ayer leí el post y me encantó, está tan bien explicado todo. Y como escribes en inglés llegas más allá, y eso está muy bien.

No había tenido tiempo de ponerme a escuchar y por eso no había comentado, pero ya veo que tienes para todos los gustos, Varela con su Guillermo Tell me trae tan buenos recuerdos, y Dust in the Wind, hacía siglos que no escuchaba esa canción!

Por cierto, de Scorpions vi que tienes algo, pero me pareció que no estaba "Winds of Change" que me encanta. Te confieso que me he saltado algunas, porque el rock no es de lo que más me gusta, salvo excepciones, pero lo he disfrutado igual. Gracias. Un saludo,

Rosa

A Cuban In London said...

Hola, Rosa, gracias por pasar y te busco y te pongo a Scorpions enseguida. Se me habian ido, lo admito. Los disfruté mucho en los ochenta cuando estudiaba en el Saul Delgado.

Saludos desde Londres.

A Cuban In London said...

Ya te lo colgué. Y también colgué un Michael Jackson, 'Beat It'.

Saludos desde Londres.

Lisetg said...

Asere!!!!!! que tarde llegue!!!!
no he terminado de leer esto aun, pero solo queria decirle a Generacion Asere que el Low que pusieron, de Cracker, lo vi en vivo hace poco. Mi novio es fan a ellos y fuimos a un concierto pequennito (de gente) que hicieron en Atlanta!!

besitos, sigo mirando despues del trabajo este genial post de London.

A Cuban In London said...

Y pon la tuya, tambien, liset, que esto es de todos los amantes de la buena musica.

Saludos desde Londres.

Lisetg said...

ohhhh, don't stop me now!!!!!
London, ahora es que estoy oyendo los videos! mas vale tarde que nunca.

salvaje!!!

Lisetg said...

holy shit (sorry). I missed AC/DC completely when they were famous. pity, they are soooo good.

London, me tienes aqui bailando!

Lisetg said...

Pero bueno, que decir de la Janis...no se ni como no hable de ella en mi post de musica porque siempre ha sido una de mis preferidas.

Lisetg said...

chao, chao,
vamo pal gao
pizza con pizza
que ya no hay pescao

Version cubana de Shout, de Tears for Fears.

A Cuban In London said...

Jajaja! Liset, mas vale tarde que nunca. Gracias por pasar. Y ya tu sabes, aqui estamos, la vieja fricanda', pero rega' por el extrajero.

Saludos desde Londres.

Betty said...

hola Cuban, estoy un poco perdía porque estaba de vaca-blog también;-) flipé con la 440 y JLG el jueves en el palacio de lo deportes, Medicine to my Soul;-), un abrazo

A Cuban In London said...

No hay lio, betucha, te caigo por alla en un ratico.

Saludos desde Londres.

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