IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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Talking timba: On the politics of black popular music in and around Cuba
Vincenzo Perna

Last modified: 2013-01-22


This paper discusses the case of Cuban timba, the most distinctive popular style to emerge from Cuba during the 1990s, which presented itself as emphatically escapist, but became intensely political in the way it reflected the changes of Cuba during the período especial (the economic crisis that followed the disintegration of USSR), eventually falling victim to Cuban censorship. The paper analyses Cuban discourses regarding popular music and Afro-Cuban music, and discusses if and how timba could be considered as a type a “political music”. It highlights how the politics of timba were mostly articulated by signs embodied in its sounds and dance style, but did not conform to Western ideas of “world music”. In the late 1990s, in fact, on the international arena “Cuban music” came to be identified with the reassuring message of Buena Vista Social Club. The paper then examines the role of timba in today’s Cuba.

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