Luz Escobar, Havana, 11 February 2017 – Sexists, hard and streetsmart, such are the lyrics of most reggaeton songs that are heard everywhere. Topics that speak about jealousy and rivalries, but that can also convey very different messages. Under the name La Unión (the Union), a group of young artists spread the Christian faith to the rhythm of this urban genre so popular in Cuba.
The group, founded in 2013, promotes their songs and videos through the Weekly Packet in the folder titled “Christian section.” A musical work that stands out in the Cuban panorama by combining two elements that seem opposed: religion and reggaeton.
Willing to break down those prejudices, Ramiro (Pucio), Osmel (Mr. Jacke), Randoll (El Escogido), and Misael (DJ Misa), compose and sing for a new generation of listeners born with this millennium. A generation accustomed to choosing a la carte the audiovisual materials they consume and who are very familiar with flash drives, Zapya and smart phones.
In times of vertigo in the exchange of content, the members of the Union release their songs under the label Kingdom Records, a handcrafted studio installed in the house of DJ Misa, in the Alamar neighborhood. In that zone of ugly buildings and good musicians, rap and hip-hop reigned in earlier decades.
In public performances of the Union, women dancing with lewd movements, twerking style, are not seen and the group members do not wear heavy gold chains around their necks. Even so the places where they perform are packed and fans sing along to the lyrics, which praise values such as solidarity and friendship.
In public performances of La Union, women dancing with lewd movements, twerking style, are not seen and the group members do not wear heavy gold chains around their necks.
In a conversation with 14ymedio during a promotional tour around La India, in Old Havana, the director of the group, DJ Misa, said that from the beginning they wanted to “take the message of Jesus to the Island’s youngest listeners” and they thought it “perfect” to use urban music “as a strategy” because “that is what is mostly heard in the streets.”
Currently, the DJ Misa is immersed in a whirlwind of preparations for a concert the group will perform on February 17 in the central venue Riviera. The launching of a new video clip also fills him with pride, although reaching the point they have now arrived at has not come easily.
The beginnings of the Union were not exempt from “some obstacles,” comments DJ Misa, because few people dared to “mix Christian music with reggaeton.” However, they found acceptance within the island’s millennials and the pastor of the Methodist Church of Alamar, Daniel Marín, who supported them unconditionally.
A recent survey of young Cubans found that their idols range from soccer players, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, to reggaeton singers, like Yomil, El Chacal and el Príncipe, who are overwhelmingly popular among those under 30 years old.
In this context, Christian musicians count on an audience interested in rhythms representing reality. But it is also an audience accustomed to the ruggedness of many reggaeton songs, which praise sexism, promiscuity and frivolity. These are the themes heard in bars, cafeterias, and taxis and even during morning assemblies in Cuban schools.
Christian musicians count on an audience interested in rhythms representing reality. But it is also an audience accustomed to the ruggedness of many reggaeton songs, which praise sexism, promiscuity and frivolity.
DJ Misa explains the support they have also received from other pastors. He says it is because many young people “who are in church but no longer very interested and about to leave,” after listening to their music return with more joy. Although he laments that due to lack of resources they can only do two or three concerts a year.
Both performances and video clips are self produced and financed, says the artist, who complains “there are still no companies that promote Christian music.” Nevertheless, they have managed to perform various concerts and in August of last year filled the venue Avenida.
The young man’s production ability was self-taught, and he counts on spreading his music through social networks, such as Facebook and YouTube.
He does not discard that the Union will be televised and is thinking about presenting his next music video, Jesus Fanatic, at next year’s Lucas Awards. DJ Misa is convinced that his audiovisuals “have the same quality as the ones presented” and show a “very professional appearance.”
As they reach the small screen, these young musicians are achieving a special place in the national urban music, a place where the heavy terrain of reggaeton manages to gain spirituality and compromise.
Translated by Chavely Garcia