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Interview with Danay Suarez, Part 2: Different Festivals, Different Countries, One People

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Interview with Danay Suarez, Part 2:
Different Festivals, Different Countries, One People

By Reza Corinne Clifton
(with translation work by Reza Clifton, Tamara Diaz, Bryant Estrada, and Jose Ramirez)

It’s been almost a year since Cuban Hip Hop Emcee and World Music artist Danay Suarez hit the stages of the Afro-Latino Festival in NYC, and much has happened in between. She’s been featured in the Fader Magazine, on CNN, and in dozens of other news sites, blogs, and multimedia spaces. She has also continued touring and making art.

The year before, Summer 2014, was the first time I met Suarez. I was at the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC), also in NYC, and she was one of the artists I had hoped to see perform and/or who I hoped to interview. The interview didn’t work out, but because of mutual friends of friends, I did meet Suarez, and she was kind and inimitable. With one set of incorrect directions too many, my friend and I, upon arriving at the venue, found that we missed Suarez’s performance. We still liked some of the bands who performed, like Sante Les Amis from Uruguay. However, the sting of missing Suarez was sharp.

This wasn’t so a year later. That is because in 2015, at the Afro-Latino Festival, I saw Suarez perform on the opening night. I was in the front row, dancing, singing, smiling and catching footage to accompany my interview, which came a few weeks later. Mostly, though, I danced.

Earlier this year, around the time that President Obama visited Cuba, I shared part of the conversation between Suarez and I in which she discussed diplomatic relations between our two countries, and how she produced a rap song following similar releases by Jay-Z, Pitbull, Wyclef and Common. Suarez was the only rapper who released an “Open Letter” verse who actually lived in Cuba – the country at the center of the musical and political debate among the artists.

But it’s June now, and the summer festivals have begun, which means LAMC is coming up, the Afro-Latino Festival is coming up, and even here in Providence, PVDFest already comes to a close on Sunday, June 5. Why do these spaces and sites matter? What does using a term like Latin Alternative or Afro-Latino signify? How do festivals and the culture of festivals change from one country or continent to another? These were additional topics discussed during the 2015 interview I did with Suarez, which was conducted in Spanish. Click on the Soundcloud link below to listen to that excerpt.

As you will hear in the segment, Suarez, who lives in Cuba but tours internationally, also talked about her journey from being a computer programmer in Havana to an internationally-known Universal Music Group artist. It started with hip hop in many ways, for it was the rap movement in Cuba that inspired her to move from wanting to be a singer to grabbing a microphone and notebook, and writing and recording songs in the studio. Today she also sings, writes and performs in different jazz, reggae and hybrid styles, and dabbles in visual and multimedia arts. Overall, Suarez says she considers herself a composer of ideas, and any idea is within bounds, as is clear in her music and in listening to her views on macro and micro festival cultures.

Suarez says she understands that people need cultural movements, religion, etc to identify with and feel part of something and to feel like life has purpose. However, Suarez says that when she is part of these festivals, her message is that there shouldn’t be flags or borders. We are all from the same place, says Suarez, and we are all owners of all territories (aka we all have claim to this earth). To hear more, click here or listen to the podcast above.

To hear her music, and to follow Suarez, search for and follow Danay Suarez on Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud.

Visit the following link for more information about the Latin Alternative Music Conference: www.latinalternative.com/

Visit the following link for more information about the Afro-Latino Festival: www.afrolatinofestnyc.com/

Visit the following link for more information about PVDFest: www.pvdfest.com

To follow my #rezarites #venussings #sonicwatermelons and #3amblack coverage, follow http://www.venussings.com, http://www.ambtiousblackfeminist.com, and @rezaclif on Facebook and Twitter.

For tips and recommendations on 2016 Summer festivals, listen to “Sonic Watermelons Summer Guide, 2016 and Bonus Danay Suarez Interview, May 10, 2016,” a Sonic Sunday Podcast released Sunday, June 5, 2016.

President Obama Visits Cuba and Danay Suarez Talks to Reza Rites: A Bilateral Analysis and Discussion on Diplomacy, Music, and Mixtapes

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President Obama Visits Cuba and Danay Suárez Talks to Reza Rites: A Bilateral Analysis and Discussion on Diplomacy, Music, and Mixtapes

By Reza Corinne Clifton
(with translation help from Reza Clifton, Tamara Diaz, Bryant Estrada, and Jose Ramirez)

PROVIDENCE, RI – On Sunday, March 20, 2016 President Obama landed down 90 miles away from the US, in Cuba – the first president to do so, reportedly, in 90 years. Three years ago, Jay-Z and Beyonce, another couple that some would consider a President and First Lady (or Queen and Chancellor] of Hip Hop, traveled to the same Caribbean island despite what were, then, even stricter restrictions on travel to the Spanish-speaking island. Then, like now with Obama, Jay-Z and Beyonce inspired conversation, and, some would argue, controversy with their trip. That is because to this day, say anti-Castro protesters, the Communist government running Cuba is still limiting important rights and liberties to their citizenry, such as free speech, a reality reflected in the regular detainment and incarceration of artists and others considered political dissidents. Critics of these types of trips say that visiting Cuba when human rights violations like these are still the norm encourage the Cuban government – now led by Raul Castro – to continue their policies and punishments.

On the other hand, Cuba is also known for its high-performing educational system and effective medical care. There are opportunities and programs for Black American students as well as students from all over Latin America who want to study medicine in Cuba, for instance, and the country’s music, art and culture is rich, varied, magnetic and appreciated all over the world – including in the United States. That’s right, not even a blockade or end to official diplomatic relations could interrupt the world meeting and learning about Cuba through the simple act of pressing play or sitting in person to hear musical selections from an “Habanero” or farmer from the countryside. As I saw in the years 2000 and 2002, the opposite was true too: many Cubans, at least in Havana (la Habana) were aware of American music and different cultural norms from the US despite the divisions being imposed diplomatically. Moreover, I remember during my trips with American University and the State University of New York, Buffalo, that the American dollar was an accepted form of payment everywhere we visited and stayed! If the blockade and harsh policies both governments have against each other – once harsher, too – aren’t stopping the co-mingling of the two cultures, shouldn’t policies be shifted, ask advocates on the other side, to support partnerships that would benefit both regular Cuban citizens and regular Americans?

In the spring of 2013, a number of musicians joined the America-Cuba relations debate when Jay-Z released a single called “Open Letter” to respond to what the radio and world music website Afropop described as “Cuban-American Republican politicians” who “raised an uproar, demanding to know if the trip was legal…” Following Jay-Z’s “Open Letter,” a number of artists released remixes, remakes and responses to Open Letter: Common, Pitbull, and Wyclef, for example.

But so did another artist: Cuban hip hop emcee and world music singer, Danay Suárez. Suárez, whose debut album is called “Polvo de la Humedad” (or Dust of the Moisture), lives in Cuba, though her music is known across the world, including in Europe and here in the US. I know this because she has performed the last two years in spaces I attended and covered, specifically the Latin Alternative Music Conference in 2014 and the Afro-Latino Festival in 2015 – both in NYC. I caught her performance in 2015 and can assure you: many sang along during her set.  

I spoke to Suárez shortly after her performance at the Afro-Latino Festival, and one area I asked about was her Open Letter verse and her feelings on what is happening between the two countries. Obama may not see it in time, but the podcast, and Suárez’s insights, may help with understanding what’s at stake and what’s at play in this moment. Please note our conversation was in Spanish.

As a citizen of Cuba, Suárez says she felt proud that popular and well-known artists Jay-Z and Beyonce would visit her hometown. But as for her musical response, Suárez knew that, coming from the streets of Havana, she could offer perspectives that none of the other Open Letter artists could.

Some of those perspectives include the reminder that Cuba represents a place full of contradictions, with its limited liberties that exist alongside a commitment to bring up very educated people and professionals. And that’s nothing to ignore, suggests Suárez, as two areas considered valuable for humans – healthcare and education – do exist and thrive in Communist Cuba.

With her inclusion in “9 Cuban Artists You Need To Know Right Now,” an article published March 16 in The Fader, and her inclusion in a recently-aired CNN mini-documentary it’s clear that Suárez herself is a valuable part of contemporary Cuban culture. To learn more and to hear her music, visit http://www.danaysuarez.com or look for and follow Danay Suárez on Youtube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can also find her on Soundcloud, where where you’ll find the link to carta abierta, aka Open Letter.

For news on when additional snippets from the conversation with Suárez are available, and for other music updates from me, Reza Rites, visit ambitiousblackfeminist.com and venussings.com, follow @rezaclif on FB and Twitter, @3amblack on Instagram and Twitter, and Sonic Watermelons on FB, Twitter, Soundcloud and BSRlive.com.    

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MUSIC

Danay Suárez (and band) performing LIVE, July 10, 2015, Madiba/MIST Harlem, Afro-Latino Festival, NYC, 3rd Edition, #afrolatinofestnyc, afrolatinofestnyc.com.

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ADDITIONAL/REFERENCED LINKS

http://www.thefader.com/2016/03/16/cuban-artists-you-need-to-know

http://www.afropop.org/8176/cuban-artist-danay-suarez-responds-to-jay-zs-open-letter/

 

Providence-based Artist Explores Intersections of Race, Videography and Social Media, Locally and Globally, in Race Matters! A New Exhibit at URI

Providence-based Artist Reza Clifton Explores Intersections of Race, Videography and Social Media, Locally and Globally, in New Exhibit at URI

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(Music Moves at Race Matters! full release below. Click here on the image to link to an extended release)

WHO:

Reza Clifton, Digital Storyteller

Steven Pennell, Gallery Director & Urban Arts and Culture Program Coordinator

Twenty artists working in different visual arts formats.

WHAT:

“Race Matters” an exhibit honoring Black History Month by celebrating racial and cultural diversity and examining the long history of horrible acts of racism across the nation and the world through the visual arts.

“Music Moves” a photography exhibit and multimedia project created by RI-based writer, “digital storyteller” and cultural navigator Reza Clifton.

WHEN:

Exhibit dates: January 25, 2016 to February 26, 2016.

Building/gallery hours are

  • Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
  • Friday and Saturday, 9:00 AM to 4;00 PM.

Reception: Sunday, February 7, 2016, 1-4 PM

WHERE:

URI Providence Campus, 80 Washington Street, Providence, RI.

INFO

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promo_uri_music_moves

Providence-based Artist Reza Clifton Explores Intersections of Race, Videography and Social Media, Locally and Globally, in New Exhibit at URI

PROVIDENCE, RI – “Race matters, and music moves; just look around you.”

That is how Providence, RI-based writer, cultural navigator and “digital storyteller” Reza Clifton describes her participation in an art exhibit currently on display at the Providence Campus of the University of Rhode Island (URI). Race Matters! features a collection of artwork from over a dozen different artists who contributed pieces to help highlight the beauty of racial and cultural  differences as well as the urgency behind the need to end racism. Among the artists exhibiting is Clifton, who submitted pieces from her project called “Music Moves.”

Clifton describes Music Moves as a photography exhibit and multimedia project she launched in 2014 “to explore and celebrate the different effects and benefits delivered through music.” She does this by sharing photographs, multimedia interview clips, and stories captured in places as wide and diverse as Madrid and San Sebastian, Spain; Austin, TX; Asheville, NC; Providence, RI; and Brooklyn, NY.

Clifton, also known as Reza Rites, Venus Sings and Reza Wreckage, has acquired several nicknames because she has worked as a blogger, community organizer and DJ, independently and for organizations across RI, for over a decade. She has produced content for radio dating back to 2001, and has been known as a pioneering blogger, podcaster and social media user and a busy freelance writer since 2004. Clifton was awarded Diversity in the Media Awards in 2007 and 2009 for work that appeared on her blogs and podcasts, and she has been recognized for leadership as a community organizer and contributor to the music and art scene in and outside of Rhode Island. She currently teaches writing and digital media at various sites (schools and community centers), and she can be heard weekly on Brown Student and Community Radio where she shares music, airs interviews and reports on the intersections of art, social media, race, gender and poverty on her show, “Sonic Watermelons.”

Despite these accomplishments, Clifton says she has experienced the kinds of barriers that women and people of color working in the media frequently reference in anecdotes, and which can be seen in digital media campaigns, like the #OscarsSoWhite conversations, and in research.

For example, the Women’s Media Center found that out of the 250 top-grossing domestically made films of 2013, women accounted for only 16 percent of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors. Similarly, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), in their “Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media,” found that men hold 73% of the top management jobs compared to 27% by women.

Clifton says Music Moves is a testament to the fact that focusing on the things you love can get you past these barriers. And she says the photos show it. For example, currently up at URI are photos from the 2015 Afro-Latino and Afropunk Festivals, Brooklyn, NY, which she attended and blogged about last summer, and the 2009 Jazzaldia Jazz Festival in San Sebastian, Spain, which she covered as part of her former production and hosting work on WRIU, a student and community-run station located on the URI Kingston Campus. Clifton also submitted photos from the 2012 South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX, and from a day at the park, specifically Recife Park in Madrid, Spain.

Like her other exhibitions, Clifton selected photos that also fit into one of three sub-themes: 1) Music Moves Ideas and Cultures, 2) Music Moves Across and Through Space and Time, and 3) Music Moves the Human Spirit. Reflecting on the links between the Race Matters themes and Music Moves, Clifton explained:

“For me, focusing on music has led me to 1) work in a field, journalism, infamous for its low numbers and skewed representations of women and people of color, while 2) allowing me to to experience live performances and artist interviews in locations and with artists from all over the world, especially with women and musicians with West African, Caribbean, Latino, and/or Black American backgrounds. What I have found? Music Moves!”

The Race Matters! exhibit is on display now and until February 26, 2016, 80 Washington Street, Providence. Building/gallery hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM and Friday and Saturday, 9:00 AM to 4;00 PM.  The reception for the event is scheduled for Sunday, February 7, 2016, 1-4 PM.

For more information, click here to read the full release, which includes information about photos in the current exhibit, visit www.VenusSings.com/music-moves, or do a search through all online posts containing the hashtag #MusicMovesReza. To follow Clifton, follow her Tumblr page, www.AmbitiousBlackFeminist.com, or follow @3amblack on FB, IG & Twitter and/or @rezaclif of FB and Twitter. 

 

Venus Sings at the Afro-Latino Festival: A Playlist and Summary

afrolatino blog collage 2
by Reza Corinne Clifton

NEW YORK, NY – Festival withdrawal.

I’m not sure it can be diagnosed, but I’m positive that’s what I’m suffering from. That’s because it’s been exactly 7 days and 16 hours since the launch of the third annual Afro-Latino Festival in NYC – which I, too, attended last weekend. Last month, I had included the festival as part of my ‪#‎venussings‬ and ‪#‎sonicwatermelons‬ 2015 Music Festival Guide, but it surpassed my expectations.

What was so good about it, you ask? In short: the people; the music; the attention to scholarship.

I’ve got videos, photos, and interviews from the Festival, coming soon, so you’ll see what I mean. For now, though, here are some videos/tunes from four of the musicians who attended the festival and brought great vibes: Les Nubians, who I’ve followed for nearly the same 20 years the band is celebrating this year; Danay Suarez who was one of the reasons I was inspired to attend LAMC last year; Los Hacheros, whose salsa melodies and rhythms had me dancing fearlessly at the festival’s Friday night Gala; and Cultura Profetica, whose reggae chops are so beloved that most in attendance during their Sunday night performance were singing along, word for word, song to song.

Tune in to Sonic Watermelons this Tuesday (and every Tuesday) from 7-8 PM on bsrlive.com to catch additional reports and stories from the Festival. Plus follow me on venussings.com, ambitiousblackfeminist.com, and @3amblack on FB, Twitter and IG for additional reporting from me, Reza Rites/Venus Sings/DJ Reza Wreckage/The AmbitiousBlackFeminist.

Los Hacheros

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Cultura Profetica

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Les Nubian, Embrasse Moi

Les Nubian, Makeda

Les Nubian, Son Reggae

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Danay Suarez, Cuando Ya No Este

Danay Suarez, Flores

Danay Suarez, Siempre Que Llueve

From Providence and NYC to San Sebastian, Spain: A 2015 Venus Sings and Sonic Watermelons Music Festival Guide

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(Captured here, from left to right, are Reza Rites / Venus Sings, performer Danay Suarez, and artist Tamara Diaz)

PROVIDENCE, RI – “It’s summertime in the city and the festivals are hot!” That was the theme of the June 16 episode of Sonic Watermelons, the show I produce alongside Jose Ramirez and Deejay Kellan for Brown Student and Community Radio (www.bsrlive.com).

After a group discussion about the June 11-14 Providence International Arts Festival, I ran down a short “Venus Sings” list of events I highly recommend. That list is below.


Danay Suarez, featured in the video above, who was a 2014 LAMC artist, is on the line-up for this July’s Afrolatino Festival, a space described as a gathering to “celebrate the contributions that people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean have made to (NYC) and the global culture as a whole.”

Catch Sonic Watermelons every Tuesday from 7-8 PM (EST) on http://www.bsrlive.com. And follow music news and cultural tidbits on VenusSings.com, AmbitiousBlackFeminist.com, and @3amblack on FB, TW, and IG.

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