Once the first opportunities arised to rocker bands in Cuba, the social scene in the island faced its greatest challenge: the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp. How it influenced the beginning of the special period in Cuban rock scene?

Cuban Rock: Lights and Shadows in the Special Period

David Blanco

David Blanco

The “Patio de María” (Courtyard of Mary) was an essential step in the development of rock in Cuba, because Cuba rock community, finally had its own space. However, this step forward was challenged by a huge setback. Like the rest of the nation, the Cuban rock bands were affected by the so-called Special Period, a time of extreme shortages that negatively affected all aspects of the country.

During this special period not only access to the instruments was really difficult; also the bands were unable to rehearse due the constant power cuts. But not all was darkness, over the years also appeared the first TV program to spread the Cuban Rock tangerine peel, led by Juanito Camacho.

La Tumba (Tendencia)

Still, probably motivated by desperation and deprivation, from 1993 to 2000 numerous bands appeared throughout the country that rehearsed and performed concerts in various houses of cultures as the one in Playa, the house of culture in Linea (Vedado) or in Alamar.

As sad as it were, during that tumultuous time that Cubans call special period, many of these concerts were marked by an open animosity between the rockers and the police, which ended in the cancellation of concerts and sometimes real battles pitched between police and young public.

Another feature of the nineties in the evolution of Cuban rock is the appearance of distinctive features, such as merging with elements troubadour. Example of the above idea are bands like “Extraño Corazón” (Strange Heart) and “Paisaje con Ríos” (Lanscape with Rivers). However, the national scene remained dominated by extreme metal bands like “Zeus”, “Agonizer” or “Tendencia”. But even in these groups the cultural heritage of the melting pot that makes up the Cuban nation is perceived, as is the incorporation of the bata drums sound trend.

With festivals and without Recordings

By the late 90s and early twenty-first century first they began to consolidate several rock festivals throughout the island. The oldest of these is Ciudad Metal (City Metal) which is held in the city of Santa Clara every year. Provinces such as Matanzas, Havana, Pinar del Rio and Granma have their own festivals.

These festivals showed the true popularity of rock in Cuba. Many people move from one province to another to attend concerts of their favorite bands. Likewise new groups have had the opportunity to get noticed in public.

With the advance of the new century the consolidation of festivals and live bands called “bandas de patio”. The metal scene also expands: new groupings arise outside the capital and diversify genres. For example, in Matanzas “Rice and Beans” plays nu metal, and in Holguin “Mephisto” develops the gothic metal.

However, the Cuban music industry remains indifferent to rock Made in Cuba. The best way to identify this phenomenon is that one of the iconic Cuban rock bands, “Zeus”, in more than 20 year of career has recorded only one album, and with a Spanish label. (To be continued …)

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