Brief history of Cuban rock (Part 1)

Sep 22, 2019


The 50s marks the birth and introduction of Cuban rock. In those years began to be exhibited in Cuba a group of American musical films about the genre with films like Mr. Rock and Roll (1956), Seeds of Evil (1957) and Love Me Tender (1957). These led to the development of a taste for that kind of people and marked the history of Rock & Roll in Cuba.

The beginnings of the Cuban Rock

The foundation in Havana of Los Llopis in 1955, led by Frank Llopi with the maestro Felipe Dulzaides, would be the beginning of the Cuban rock and even was the first attempt to bring the genre into Spanish in Latin America.

During these years  another musicians like Jorge Bauer, who is regarded as the incarnation of Elvis in Cuba by his fame among women, and Pedro Roman, an artist of great charisma and talent that possibly between 1956 and 1958 had more submissions than any other interpreter of the genre.

They proliferated bands such as The Hot Rockers, Los Armónicos o Los Jaguares. Luis Bravo can be considered as one of the pioneers of Cuban rock with his original song “You don’t want me.”

Difficulties and resistance to Rock in Cuba

During the following decades, the Cuban rock would go through difficult times. The political situation in Cuba in the sixties, after the attack on the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the economic blockade of the island, led to any cultural movement from the capitalist camp viewed with suspicion. Foreign music began to be classified as “ideological diversion” and to be rejected by the cultural institutions.

In addition, from the 60s, the new revolutionary product measures, most of the bands passed by a jury for a category of professionals. The groups that were not selected are generally disintegrated, because they were not allowed to charge for their presentations or possessed local to appear.

Despite this, some groups like “Los Dada”, “Los Bucaneros”, “Los Magnéticos” or “Viento Solar” arose between the sixties and seventies, continued to play. Also, some amateur groups like Los Kent”, “Los Telamanco”, “La guerrilla del Willy palo” or “Los Kiowas” found a place to mark a positive step in the evolution of Rock in Cuba.

80s Rock and rescue

During the 80s, the phenomenon Rock in Cuba slowly began to take another look. By this time, the culture of the country began to feed on genres like pop, disco and salsa and there was some relaxation of protectionist standards.

However, during that decade in America predominated called Glam Hair Metal and Metal. As in many Latin American countries, the feminized image of these bands (which went far beyond the long hair, including many elements and transvestites mannerisms) caused quite a marked popular rejection, as the model of Latin macho inherited from the Spaniards contrasted.

These schemes would persist in society by stigmatizing those who love this music.

However, in this battle against stigma layout models and if there were Cuban rock heroes. Among them we must emphasize Guillermo “El Guille” Vilar, in an attempt to preserve and disseminate gender, creates first Rock festival where bands like Sputnik raided, Mayito group Romeu (GMR), Sound X, White Shadows, among others.

Havana: Cuban rock capital in the second half of the 80s

By 1987 it is created AMAR (Association of Musicians rock fans), with members of the most important bands of the moment, as Gens, Tackson, Venus, Dark Metal and many others, with a clear inclination to Heavy Metal. By this time it’s when an evolution toward a true Cuban rock began, with lyrics in Spanish, without cover music of previous decades, but was still in its infancy in terms of sound and rhythms.

The first real victory of rock in Cuba was to obtain their own space, which was created in 1988 in the cultural center located at 37 and Paseo in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana downtown. It was called the Patio de Maria and was active until 2004. (To be continued…)



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