Charting Hidden Revolution in Cuba's New Music Scene; There's More to Cuban Music Than Salsa. Meet the New Wave of Punk Rockers and Rappers, Helping to Shape a New Youth Identity in Havana, Writes KATE PROCTOR

The Journal (Newcastle, England), August 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

Charting Hidden Revolution in Cuba's New Music Scene; There's More to Cuban Music Than Salsa. Meet the New Wave of Punk Rockers and Rappers, Helping to Shape a New Youth Identity in Havana, Writes KATE PROCTOR


CUBAN music for all its romance, global appeal and cigar-toting guitar players has become a bit of a jaded stereotype.

The explosion of the Buena Vista Social Club in the 1990s did a lot to boost international appreciation of the island's historic musical roots.

But now a wealth of artists are spreading a strident brand of punk and hip-hop and using their music to steadily batter away at the Raul Castro regime.

From a quiet, book-lined study in Newcastle, Tom Astley has been charting the fascinating rise of this new movement.

His debut, Outside the Revolution: Everything, is a journey through contemporary Cuban music and will appeal to anyone interested in Latin America, the Cuban Revolution, alternative music and modern counter-cultural movements.

Tom is an ethno-musicologist, and his extensive research trips to Cuba and clear love for the country's music brings a passion to his writing.

The son of a doctor and a nurse, Tom grew up outside Consett and went to Queen Elizabeth School in Hexham before studying music at the University of Liverpool. He plays the guitar and speaks passable Spanish.

We meet at his house in Heaton, where he lives with his Cuban wife Mariley, a former radio host and daughter of two famous Cuban radio actors.

Over tea and a YouTube showing of Cuban artists I've never heard of, he says: "My initial thoughts in writing this book came from travelling to Cuba regularly, and realising that there is so much more music being made there than we ever get to hear about in England. Hip hop, punk, rock - everything - has managed to find a voice in Cuba. I suppose that it's not that surprising, and some people might even see it as a negative thing - an example of the 'Americanisation' of Cuban culture. …

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Charting Hidden Revolution in Cuba's New Music Scene; There's More to Cuban Music Than Salsa. Meet the New Wave of Punk Rockers and Rappers, Helping to Shape a New Youth Identity in Havana, Writes KATE PROCTOR
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