Daily News and Commentary
Bluenotes and Three Heads
Tales and Humor
Our Animal Companions
Sin Negro, No Es Cubano - Cuban Music
Saturday, January 01, 2005 By: Juan Paxety
A review of early Cuban music
The Guardian has an interesting review of Cuba And Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo by Ned Sublette. Sublette had planned a book on music under castro, but this book turned out to be a prequil - ending in March, 1952. Unfortunately, the author of the review is unable to abandon racism, with statements such as:
What might have been a specialist tome aimed at buffs like myself is actually an astonishing work that explains much about our modern world - why, for example, white people can't dance.
White exiles will not be reassured by Sublette's book. Among its distinguishing virtues is the author's matter-of-fact treatment of the religions of Africa with the respect and thoroughness usually only applied to "major" religions. His analysis of the cultural wealth imported along with the captured slaves is presented with vivid detail and engaging wit. How does the Christian line-up of Trinity, Virgin Mary and Devil compare with the Yoruba deities? For me, at least, it's no contest: Elegguá the trickster and guardian of crossroads (Robert Johnson's Mephistopheles); Ogún, the Thor-like, machete-wielding warrior-blacksmith who "lives with the guilt of raping his mother"; Yemeyá, the warrior-goddess of the sea, who "dances with the undulating motion of the waves"; Orula, the oracle whose green and yellow beads mark the Santeria initiate; Ochún, "the Yoruba Aphrodite", protector of prostitutes who laughs when she dances; Changó, owner of the drums; Obatalá, god of wisdom and harmony; Babalú-Ayé, god of sickness and guardian these days of Aids victims - plus other equally vivid equatorial Olympians.
The review's author seems to have forgotten - "Sin negro, no es cubano."
The book, however, looks interesting. Buy it from Amazon through this link, and help this blog.