Cuba is going to ban reggaeton

The Cuban Music Institute is leading a backlash against the music genre that they deem both "vulgar" and "mediocre".

The Cuban Ministry of Culture has formally announced this week that it plans to ban the “vulgar, banal and mediocre” genre of reggaeton music in Cuba, and to place sanctions on individuals and organizations that promote or facilitate it.

Those who oppose reggaeton and similar musical genres in Cuba have not spoken lightly of their distate for it on cultural level. Graziella Pogolotti, Vice President of the National Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba (UNEAC) – the cultural organization deemed the professional union of Cuban intellectuals in post-Revolution Cuba – has previously said that reggaeton is “vulgar”, “sexist” and promoted a “lack of values” in the glorification of capitalism and personal wealth, which they argue stands in stark contrast to Cuba’s socio-political history of socialism. The UNEAC has also previously put forward suggestions to Cuban authorities on how to limit reggaeton’s promotion and distribution to the wider public.

Such measures now seem to be nearing completion on a national level this week. Plans to prohibit reggaeton will extend to limiting the broadcasting of reggaeton music in public spaces such as eateries, bars, state functions, offices and public transport, as well as use in radio and television programs via state media outlets. These sanctions will also extend to the individuals who either perform or promote reggaeton. Musicians could potentially lose their license to perform live music if they perform reggaeton in public places and risk being struck off official records, posing a threat to their future employment possibilities.

“We are in the process of purging music catalogues with the aim of eradicating practises that, in their content, stray from the legitimacy of Cuban popular culture.” – Orlando Vistel Columbié, head of the Cuban Music Institute

The driving force behind this national prohibition appears to be justified by authorities on two levels. The first, that reggaeton is a direct threat to Cuban women in its hyper-sexualisation of women, which leads to an ingrained objectification and demeaning representation of women in society overall through “aggressive, sexually obscene lyrics that deform the innate sensuality of the Cuban woman” which “projects them as grotesque sexual objects.” Secondly, that this is “backed by the poorest quality music” which stands in contrast to ‘authentic’ Cuban musical culture, with its history of salsa, rumba, jazz and the multitude of African and Caribbean influences that have come to permeate traditional Cuban instrumentation.

As reported by The Guardian this week, Orlando Vistel Columbié, the head of the Cuban Music Institute, said in a statement that: “Measures that have been adopted range from professional disqualification of those who violate ethics in their work to the levying of severe sanctions against those who from official institutions encourage or permit these practices. We are in the process of purging music catalogues with the aim of eradicating practises that, in their content, stray from the legitimacy of Cuban popular culture.”

While officials insist that the crackdown will not extend to private listening in the home, this comes as little comfort to fans and musicians. As ever though, the measures also raise the argument that banning a music genre only serves to heighten its popularity and push it underground, allowing for a renewed attention towards it on both a localised and global level.

Listen to a Cuban reggaeton mix below:

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