Musical Cartographies of the Transnational City: Mapping Havana in Song

September 2010
Latin American Music Review;Fall/Winter2010, Vol. 31 Issue 2, p210
Academic Journal
Over the last two and a half decades, Cuban singer-songwriters have composed a worldview that has come to represent Cuba and Cubanness for youth living both on and off the island. The city of Havana figures centrally in this worldview, serving as a site, both real and metaphoric, for its construction. The song repertoire produced by musicians who were born in the years following the revolution is marked by an almost obsessive focus on the city, regardless of whether their careers developed on or off the island. Such songs have tended to be grounded in the physical, taking listeners down specific streets, traversing particular neighborhoods, sitting on curbs and park benches, and visiting local landmarks. Collectively, these songs form a kind of aural map, with each retelling redrawing the city--and its meaning--for listeners. For musicians who have left the island for other shores, Havana remains the destination of a discursive migration, which may be reached in song, if not in person, Musical remappings of the city position new identities in Cuban diasporic communities around the world, celebrating and authenticating the local at the same time that they redraw and superimpose the boundaries of neighborhood, region, and nation.


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