Danay Suarez | Feminism, Cuban Style

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It’s no secret that hip-hop and reggaeton have some, shall we say, issues when it comes to women. It seems like every song in those genres contains graphic depictions of what macho men will do, or want to do, to their “bitches” and “ho’s.” In Spanish the equivalent terms are “zorra” or “puta” and the attitude is pretty much the same.

When criticized for their sexism, rappers often lash back. “I know my lyrics are obscene, but that’s how I pay the bills,” the members of Calle 13 (a massively popular Puerto Rican band) reply in “Fiesta de Locos,” followed by a not very nice description of how they propose to deal with “feminist women.” Fortunately, many of these feminist women are more than willing to fight back. Some, like the Argentine Miss Bolivia, have become mainstream and boast millions of fans. Others, like the Cuban musician Danay Suarez, are still struggling to get recognition.

Danay sharpened her skills in the Cuban rap scene, but has expanded her repertoire and now combines Cuban music, hip-hop, jazz and reggae to accompany her haunting, poetic lyrics. She prefers slow rhythms and a stern, sometimes angry delivery. Insofar as she’s political, she has a double mission: to achieve equality between people and to encourage each person to be a free and unique individual. “I’m not better than anyone, nobody’s better than me,” she sings in “Yo Aprendí,” “Although I don’t understand why everyone wants to be the same. They clone themselves and lose their voices.”

Life, in her lyrics, is a constant battle to face the reality of your journey, to own it and then to shape it into your truth. When she writes love poems she focuses less on the joys than on the sorrows. When love ends you “feel like the world revolves around you, but the pain won’t stop” she says in “Días.” Still, sadness is as natural as happiness, and it will also not last forever: “I assure you, it’s nothing but experience.” In Aldo, she tells the man who left her that she won’t allow him to be in control of her: “I didn’t fail you. I failed myself!” In “Dejando al Mundo” she asks God’s forgiveness for not walking the righteous path and for “holding a man as an idol in my heart.”

Danay cleverly mixes romance and politics in some of her lyrics. In “Siempre Que Llueve” she uses the metaphor of emigration to warn us not to try to escape from our feelings: “Things, facts can’t be changed, and destiny can’t be erased.” But this is okay, she reminds you, because “every time it rains it stops.” In “Esta Guerra Tan Violenta” she serenades the loved one she left behind, but it’s not clear whether she’s speaking to a man or to her country: “A part of me was left in your flag. I had to chose between my life and your system.”

Choice, in fact, is the central theme of her music. She doesn’t sugarcoat the terrible realities of the world – the inner world as well as the outside world – but she believes there is always a way out, a way to fight and maybe even emerge victorious in the end.

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