Chronicle with First Quarter Moon

Perhaps I’m not the right person to write this chronicle. Or maybe I am. I know colleagues who personally knew Silvio Rodríguez in that first stage of the revolution, ingenuous and difficult, crude and contradictory, where children magically became men.

Further, I’m going to talk about the spell that Silvio provoked in my generation, by many considered “lost.” Anyone under 50 years had a similar experience in the way we listened to his songs.

Perhaps in school, in the subject interpreted by an infantile adventure or in the voice of a friend, I don’t remember now exactly, but when I discovered Silvio it was while he composed songs and had been one of the founders of the Sound Experimentation Group of ICAIC, together with the indispensable Pablo Milanés, Noel Nicola and Vicente Feliú, among other, all directed by Leo Brouwer, who already was a maestro.

One year later, in 1973, the Movement of the New Trova had been created, of which Silvio was the main part. The Beatles, with their myth spreading around the world, had disintegrated in 1970, and it was no secret that the geniuses of Liverpool, with their ballad-rock music, had left an incurable vacuum after their dissolution, in spite of the psychosis they gave the Cuban cultural and political authorities.

Then, I think, the strategists of culture saw a vein of gold and thus supported that scruffy group that sang about strange things, because when it came down to it, they were “revolutionaries.”

A truce was declared. The media, little by little, put themselves at the service of Silvio and the New Trova movement. With reserve, of course. At the start, because of disinterest in the trovadors, they were heard only at political events, patriotic commemorations or on days of national mourning.

The official propaganda put emphasis on the known themes of Silvio Rodríguez, like The era is giving birth to a heart, Gun against gun, Song to the chosen and the Chief, songs that with their metaphoric and poetic language demonstrated support for the revolution. Silvio also sang about the everyday and alienation, but from moment to moment, until he didn’t show his complete loyalty, those texts navigated in semi-secrecy.

The singer-songwriter from San Antonio de los Baños was a kind of moon in the last quarter: we could appreciate only one part of his face. Thus, in this way, he came to our generation.

We hummed the lyrics on patriotic anniversaries or in memory of the martyrs. Silvio was growing with us. Upon reaching the decade of the 80s, the tested Cuban composer still was not being censured. It had been a painful and traumatic birth, but here was this Rodríguez, in his rightful place. One of the best Cuban composers of the 20th century.

The lyrics of Summary of the news and Hopefully didn’t raise suspicions. On the contrary, he was a prophet in his own land and also in Latin America and Spain. Many, like I, followed and harassed him from recital to recital. We knew almost his whole repertoire by heart.

Human beings need myths, leaders, chosen people…and for us, Silvio was it. Or, at least, he made a valuable mark on a portion of Cuban youth, although some later became critical of his work and his ideological position. Others say that he stagnated, adapted, and lost his nerve.

My current political position differs a good bit from that of Silvio Rodríguez now that I am 63 years old. Not for that reason am I going to stop admiring his songs: that would be denying and betraying an important part of my life.

Now, Silvio, we see you clearly, without the halo whose light deceived us. And we are grateful to you for having enriched us spiritually and distracted us from superfluous and useless music. Thousands of my generation are far away, in other lands, beneath the sea, or departed forever.

I don’t know about others, but I want to express my thanks to you for having proposed something to us, not imposed it. For having transmitted good values to us, freely. This is more important than any militancy.

Iván García

Translated by Regina Anavy