My research focuses on the sonorous dimension of contemporary Afro-Cuban life in Havana and its relationship to Afro-Cuban citizenship.
Walking or travelling by car or on the bus around Havana, one can witness local practices of music playback and music listening, both publicly and privately. The way Havana sounds today, namely its rhythmic profile, has gradually changed since Cuba’s recent economic crisis started in 1991.
While the fall and emergence of local forms of transnational music like Afro-Cuban Hiphop and Afro-Cuban reggaeton have been documented, little scholarly attention has been paid to how a shift from the sounds of one genre to the sounds of another, over a few years, may describe shifts in Afro-Cuban consciousness, or shifts in how Afro-Cubans may now be engaging social participation. From 1994 to 2005, There were at least two weekly low-cost showcases of conscious Afro-Cuban rap around Havana. Today, Afro-Cuban reggaeton music thrives in much louder decibels and through an expanding DIY distribution network.
Through my position as an insider in the Afro-Cuban community, this auto-ethnographic project compiles a series of sounded fieldnotes captured in public and domestic settings of Havana to argue that the sonic presence of Afro-Cuban music on ‘stages’ such as self-powered speakers, street vendor kiosks, and social media may need to be understood as the mapping of a sonic territory. Considering the emergence of ‘The New Afro-Cuban Movement,’ this study explores in which ways such sonic territoriality contests the geographical inexistence of a land we could, hypothetically, call Afro-Cuba. The project also aims to provide further insights into what is ‘Afro-Cubaneity’ and how to best document it.
This sounded ethnography project also presents a multi-sited approach with recording and analysis captured in Santiago de Cuba and Edinburgh, Scotland.