Hearing Afro-Cuban Rap is an archival al project that submitted the first collection of Afro-Cuban rap songs to the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, Harvard University and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Library of Music, Harvard University. This initial donation was possible thanks to the personal collections of Humberto Cabrera, Pablo Herrera, Lester Martinez, Debora Pacini Hernandez, Reebee Garofalo, Michel Hermida, and other Havana Hiphop practitioners.
Premised by my work as an Afro-Cuban rap producer and my current research on the audible dimension of Afro-Cuban life in Havana, the collection explores the value of Havana’s Afro-Cuban rap songs as field recordings of contemporary Afro-Cuban oral history. Arguing that those songs should also be understood as complete ethnographic devices, Hearing Afro-Cuban Rap treats the home, or studio-produced songs, not only as conduits of the dialogue between Havana Afro-Cubans and the Cuban state; but also, as sonorous emplacements carved into the geography of Cuba’s state ideology.
This collection of rap songs also examines the relationship between the advent of Cuban Hiphop culture and the resurgence of the racial debate in the island. As the street pioneers of what scholars have called the ‘New Afro-Cuban Movement’, Afro-Cuban MCs, acted as citizen-citizen and citizen-state communicators of older anxieties over racial identity, race relations, social inequality and land-dispossession that had lain dormant practically until the beginning of Cuba’s economic crisis in the 1990s.
Hearing Afro-Cuban Rap hopes to offer a direct reply on behalf of Havana’s Hiphop community to Queloides, the visual arts exhibit on race and racism in Cuba curated and presented in 2012 by Professor Alejandro de la Fuente’s and Afro-Cuban visual artist Elio Rodriguez’s at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. As a sound studies inquiry project, Hearing Afro-Cuban Rap, is also tributary to The John E. Sawyer Seminar ‘Hearing Modernity’ held at Harvard University between 2013 and 2014. The project will also commemorate Hiphop culture’s contribution to people-to-people relations between the U.S. and Cuba by celebrating in 2019 twenty-one years of the first Black August Collective artist showcase at Havana’s 3rd International Hiphop Festival.
Habana Hiphop Volumen 2, the centrepiece in the collection is a double LP academic release on vinyl of the original compilation Habana Hiphop Vol.2 which Afro-Cuban rap producer Pablo Herrera first curated in June 2002 with the cream of Havana MCs at the time. The academic release took place at the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, Harvard University on May 13th, 2019 in the context of Celebrating Afro-Cuban Hiphop, a panel and listening session that featured Fred Brathwaite ‘Fab 5 Freddy’, dream Hampton, Ben Caldwell, Tanya Saunders, Marc Perry, and Pablo D. Herrera Veitia; as well as an introduction by Professors Marcyliena Morgan, Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, and Alejandro de la Fuente, Director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, both of Harvard University.
Pablo D. Herrera Veitia
2018-2019 Nasir Jones Fellow, Hiphop Archive and Research
Institute, Harvard University
Edinburgh, June 7, 2019
- Hip-hop & Rap