Back in the summer of 2016, a group of Cuban and U.S.-based artists got together at Guampara Studios in Havana to examine Afro-Cuban identity, creative expression, and support systems on the island. They conceived AfroRazones, a multimedia project and compilation album that proudly brandishes the sound of Afro-Cuban resistance.
A taste of AfroRazones comes today in the form of “Yo No Soy,” a thumping, timba-laced track from rap fusion artist Rositik, who is also the director and vocalist of the group Company Yo. Rositik spits at warp speed, practically snarling as she fires off her message of self-love and black empowerment: “Soy negra libre, inteligente/de pelo duro y consistente/blanco y negro no es diferente/somos humanos y somo gente.”
For this project, Rositik — along with 12 other hip-hop and R&B artists, five producers and five instrumentalists — were handpicked by DJ Jigüe of Havana’s first independent record label Guampara. Project creator Luna Olavarria Gallegos also collaborated on the selections.
The album combines Afro-Cuban sounds of the past and present, uniting hip-hop and R&B with traditional son, Afro-Latin jazz, rumba, and conga santiaguera. The final result is what the AfroRazones website describes as a “Cuban manifestation of Black resistance in 2017.”
“For me, AfroRazones is an archive of the past and the future — an opportunity to grow together as artists, Latinoamerican@s and people who believe in a world for our children. Armed with the wisdom of our ancestors, this project is a vision of how transnational relationships could exist. We can’t be quite sure of the world that’s coming in a post-Capitalist, post-truth, post-internet society. What we can do now is dream and grow together in a humane way,” Gallegos said.
AfroRazones will be available for streaming on April 28, and will also feature music from DJ Jigüe himself, DJ Lapiz/LPZ and longtime producer El Prófugo. At a time when Cuba’s diplomatic relations are changing and affecting the landscape for musicians, AfroRazones also set up workshops to give the artists on the album a place to discuss the music industry and strategies for promoting their platforms.
“We can get ourselves out there and connect with the rest of the world — it’s not that we’re not capable anymore,” explained rapper Positivo, one of the featured artists.
Photographer and documentary filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi shot videoclips and photos of the artists discussing the project — you can check those out on Guampara’s Instagram and under the #AfroRazones hashtag.
AfroRazones is out April 28 on Guampara Music.
Editor’s note: Luna Olavarria Gallegos, the AfroRazones project creator, is a Remezcla contributor.