Solidarity Rock: The Oral History of Arrabio and the DIY Punk Rock Movement in Cuba

Solidarity Rock: The Oral History of Arrabio and the DIY Punk Rock Movement in Cuba

Solidarity Rock is an artist run organization working to partner musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba, Canada and beyond.

 

From its inception in 2008 the organization has managed to overcome social, economic and political challenges to break down barriers between the alternative music scenes in Cuba and North America. Through cross cultural exchanges and capacity building campaigns Solidarity Rock managed to not only build and support a successful music scene in Cuba but has produced the first tours of alternative Cuban bands outside of Cuba. Most recently ARRABIO has been able to enter and perform in the United States, the first band of it’s kind to do so.

 

Solidarity Rock’s work serves as a blueprint for other burgeoning DIY music scenes around the world that face difficultly sharing their music and building their scene.

 

On Thursday, October 25, 2012 The Oral History Centre held a public interview with William Garcia and Drew McIntosh moderated by OHC Audio Technician Kent Davies.A podcast and video excerpts were created from the Oral History session produced by Kent Davies.

Solidarity Rock: The Oral History of Arrabio and the DIY Punk Rock Movement in Cuba

Punk Rock was once outlawed in Revolutionary Cuba. Seen by some as a foreign and invasive cultural phenomenon.

 

For years, Cuban punk-rockers bought and sold records illegally. Some musicians were repressed and their shows banned. Now attitudes have changed largely due to the work of William Garcia one of the original Cuban punk rockers. William’s music, work through the Cuban cultural ministry and relationship with Edmonton based Music Promoter and Filmmaker Drew McIntosh was the cornerstone to create Solidarity Rock. This artist run organization works to partner musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba, Canada and beyond. Since 2008, Solidarity Rock has been helping build the Cuban alternative arts scene; overcoming political, social and economic barriers while doing so.

Audio File:

On Thursday, October 25, 2012 The Oral History Centre held a public interview with Solidarity Rock organizers William Garcia and Drew McIntosh moderated by OHC Audio Technician Kent Davies. A podcast was created from the hour long public interview. It tells the story of Cuban punk rock, Solidarity Rock and the first Cuban punk band to tour outside of Cuba. The podcast was recorded and produced by Kent Davies.

Video:

On Thursday, October 25, 2012 The Oral History Centre held a public interview with Solidarity Rock organizers William Garcia and Drew McIntosh. The talk was moderated by OHC Audio Technician Kent Davies. The following video contains excerpts of that interview.

Transcript:

Kent: Was it very difficult to start a punk rock band?

 

William: They sometimes don’t even know what is like punk rock. You know, it’s like - it’s not a scene in Cuba of punk rock. Like there in Havana it might have been that they were kind of scared of what was going on at that time because it was kind of pretty into punk ideas. You know like more into like, I can say destroying things, not like the positive ways of punk. But that’s the start. It’s like Cuba is very different like country from what we have been seeing here. This trip we’ll have the opportunity to see how bands work here. How they like practice. Like we don’t have stores in Cuba, for example, to buy instruments…..….Then there was a time we had to go through in Cuba. There was like nothing coming anymore from Europe from the communist countries there. So it was like a pretty hard time because there was like not anymore instruments, like no amps, like no drums, not even strings for guitar, also because we had started playing there (government cultural center) …. we didn’t have our own instruments, we’d go there (government cultural center) and pick up the guitar and the bass and play there but you cannot bring them home to study or like to try to improve you know your skills or whatever. So it was just going there once a week and trying to start anything.

 

Kent: Do you think it was dangerous to play music that is regarded as anti-authoritarian in Cuba at that time or did it really matter?

 

William: Yeah of course it is. I guess. It’s still an issue. Like we haven’t been ever like stopped in a show. Sometimes we’ll put together like these Cuban rock festivals with all different types of rock music in Cuba. And at least as a band we have never gone though the police like going to a show to stop like us doing a show but there will always be people following you. It’s like. I don’t mean they’re not like every day after you but they go to shows just to see what you’re doing. You know it’s like. I guess it’s kind of like normal stuff. They just want to keep things you know. Like I guess they want to keep things going their own way.

 

Kent: Tell me about your first tour?

 

Drew: We were sort of on this real adventure we had undertaken on this tour you know. It was half of what we were doing every day that was mindblowing to me, you know. Trying to wrestle up a ride from Santa Clara to Havana in the streets in the morning. You know, you’re going off in three groups and trying to find the best option and meeting back up to report and figuring out if it’s going to be dumptruck, bus or two cars, you know. And so that I think for me that was sort of the beginning for sure. It was just like I had really enjoyed everybody I had met down there and just wanted to keep working on this stuff. So solidarity rock evolved from sort of a friendship connection between a bunch of different people. But William and I were sort of in contact constantly and just sort of scheming and planning and making it happen and then I guess we’re here today.

 

Kent: I’d like to know William, what was the effect of the first time, the first care package and you know having the equipment the first time? How did that affect the scene?

 

William: I’d like to first talk about this first trip Drew was talking about. Like 7 and 7 (Canadian Band), at the time 7 and 7 got into Cuba like Sancti Spíritus, No one had ever seen a foreign band play like indie rock. We did not even know what indie rock music was all about. There was that kind of an impact there on the musicians in Sancti Spíritus and also some of the other places we were like playing, making the band play you know. And then after they like, Drew go with the idea of making this thing happen. They made the shows solidarity rock and send the package to Cuba and then we started. We had this video camera and we started making projects on what to do. Because we wanted to document all the punk shows. There were important things happening in Sancti Spíritus that we didn’t have the opportunity to show people what was happening there you know and really wanted to like to let people know even around in Cuba. To let people know that this is happening in Sancti Spíritus because sometimes it’s like our city. It’s like people think that nothing is happening there you know. That is not true you know so.

 

Kent: I have no idea what that is like in Winnipeg (sarcastically)

 

William: Yeah I know. That’s why I wanted to mention it.

 

William: Right now I can’t tell you what’s the next step. But we’ll keep working for sure like keep making more of things possible not just for us but for like everybody.

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