Monday, March 30, 2015

Los Frikis

Back in the mid 80s I entered Jr. High and suddenly a bunch of kids from nearby elementary schools came along to disrupt the group I'd pretty much known since kindergarten. One of those kids lent me Ozzy Osbourne's Bark at the Moon album on cassette, and the rest is history. A history that can best be summed up by the word outcast. For our whole Jr. High career, a small group of us "rockers" were the rebels in a sea of Miami Bass loving adolescents. Interestingly, the smaller group of kids who were discovering punk at the time were much quieter about it and under the radar (and many times I've wished I'd given these kids more of a chance, but that's for another post.) We knew we were right, but what we didn't realize at the time, I think, is how lucky we were. Meanwhile, in Cuba. . .

I often talk about the power of music and I'm usually focused on a more personal, human aspect of that power. But sometimes, that can lead to much bigger repercussions. You can't talk about 60s music without making the connection between the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam protests and everything else that happened politically at the time. And it wasn't really the first movement to have a soundtrack. Dylan was inspired by Woody Guthrie and his songs, many of them protest songs, coming out of the Great Depression's Dust Bowl. Punk rock's roots, especially in the UK, were political as well, hence the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" and "God Save the Queen" and The Clash's "London Calling" among many, many others. And in more recent times, Russia's Pussy Riot comes to mind.

And those are all just obvious, explicit examples of artists making music as protest. But beyond that, music has the ability to change lives even unintentionally. Today I heard a podcast that demonstrates this in moving, dark and complicated ways. As a Cuban American in Miami, discussions about Cuba can often be very black and white. This can lead to frustration on both sides of that divide. It's not as simple as a generational line, though. And while we may disagree among st ourselves, I think we all get frustrated by how the rest of the world views the Cuban situation. This is most clearly demonstrated by the fetishizing of Che Guevara as a symbol of rebellion (which only becomes more ironic when you hear the podcast). But this isn't a political blog, I only point these things out for context. And the conclusion is that we need more human, universal and real stories about life in Cuba and I heard one today on Radiolab's Podcast titled "Los Frikis," thanks to my wife's recommendation. And like her recommendation, I don't want to spoil the details. But be prepared because it twists and turns in some nihilistic, truly punk ways that are none the less, somehow beautiful at the same time. Just listen.

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