Popular Music

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Middle Eight

Dancing back to front: regeton, sexuality, gender and transnationalism in Cuba

Jan  Fairley a1
a1 Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool

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In this Middle Eight using ethnographic observation and interviews made in Cuba in May–July 2005 and March–April 2006 I problematise the new Latina/o dance music ‘reggaetón’ which in the USA is being heralded as ‘‘an expression of pan-Latino identity … the latest Latin musical style to sweep the world … the one with the most promise of finding a permanent, prominent place not just in US but in global popular culture …” (Marshall, 2006). Notably along with hip-hop with which it is now related in Cuban cultural politics, this is the first pan-Latin style of non-Cuban origin to have a strong presence in post-‘Special period’ 1990s revolutionary Cuba. I focus on the significance and possible history of the dance moves and the lyrics of two key songs, discussing possible political double meanings and implications within a Cuban context. While focusing particularly on issues of regeton in Cuba, I place regeton in Cuba in the larger context of reggaetón history in the Latin world and of Latin dance history and discuss it within the constant construction of an appropriate Cuban national identity. I pose open questions about gender, sexuality and generational attitudes. The overall theoretical context falls within the context of Järviluoma et al's work on ‘gender as cultural construction’ (2003). It builds on work on gender and dance which forms a small part of Fairley (2004).

(Published Online September 11 2006)