Underground Cuban rappers live on the edge

Sun May 16, 2010 7:27pm EDT
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By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - It's almost midnight at a roadside bar on the outskirts of Havana and young Cubans gather to listen to hip hop.

A man with dreadlocks steps up, microphone in hand, to the roar of approval from a crowd of 150 fans.

"I'm not going to turn my back on reality, even if they censor and repress me," he chants to a driving beat, as the eager audience, which knows every word, sings along.

"Days go by and I'm still locked up, censored. They look at me like a renowned dissident, rejected by the media."

The two-man Cuban rap group "Los Aldeanos" can sell songs on iTunes to followers abroad, but in Cuba they remain an underground band that has been playing mostly unadvertised gigs at unauthorized venues for seven years.

They rap about prostitution, police harassment, social inequality and corruption, delicate issues rarely raised by Cuban musicians in the socialist state born of Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

Cuba's communist authorities say their anti-establishment songs are too critical and cannot be played on Cuban radio stations, that are all state-run, or sold in the shops.

The band has no access to Cuba's record labels either. Their 20 albums were recorded in a friend's makeshift studio a long bus ride and a two-mile walk from downtown Havana.   Continued...