Feature photo via freepussyriot.org
At the sight of Nadyezhda Tolokonnikova wearing a blue t-shirt with a raised fist and the words “No pasarán” when she was sentenced to two years jail time for the Pussy Riot performance, I was inspired to put together some songs for this week’s Beat Latino. That phrase is an anti-fascist slogan that has been used in the Spanish Civil War, and more recently, in Nicaragua during its struggle for liberation from dictatorship.
The Pussy Riot “trial” also comes in the wake of music being forbidden in Mali by the extremist government, so this week’s Beat Latino pays special tribute to musician’s voices that have been silenced by force to due intolerance and fear.
Here’s a few examples of tunes that governments, politicians, dictators and religious powers have censured in the Americas and Spain. As one of the songs in this hour of Beat Latino says, “the voice is gone, but not the song.”
Cuba’s Porno Para Ricardo
Gorki Águila’s unabashed indictment of the revolution and the current state of Cuba has won him fines and routine arrests on charges of ”pre-delinquent behavior”, “social dangerousness” and “civil disobedience”, he is barely able to organize a concert once a year with his band, Porno for Ricardo. We love his rousing tunes as well as the story of how once, he paid a fine that summed nearly one-month’s wages in Cuba in many, many bags of a coin equivalent to pennies, forcing the personnel at the police station to count it all out.
Chile’s Victor Jara
In 1973, Chilean poet, teacher, Communist activist and singer/songwriter Victor Jara was brutally murdered during the military coup in Chile. Jara was one of the central figures of the group of neo-folklorists that would impulse the musical movement of socially conscious music which came to be known as “nueva canción latinoamericana,” and we still remember him as one of our great artists silenced by dictators who tremble at the power of music.
Mexican Son Jarocho
This Afro-Mexican genre born in Veracruz was denounced to the Inquisition in the 1700’s for inducing impure thoughts and hip-shimmying amongst the ladies. This particular song, El Chuchumbé (which means “belly button to belly button” in Senegalese) even includes suggestive lyrics. La Inquisición is long gone, but we’ve still got the music, so go right ahead, feel free to shimmy those hips!
One song with this title was written in 1937 by a German Jew expulsed from his homeland, and became part of the canon of songs of the Spanish Republic in its fight during the Spanish Civil War. This version is Carlos Mejía Godoy’s, the fighting words and melodies of an anthem during Nicaragua’s struggle for liberation.
I hope you enjoy this week’s Beat Latino!