Last Sunday October 30, Cuban families, including the younger generations, stayed at home to watch on the small screen the final day of Sonando en Cuba (Sounding in Cuba), a competitive TV space sponsored by RTV Comercial which has captured the majority and not regular viewers for an entire year.
In the style of the global standards of others like Voz Kid or the Spanish Operación Triunfo, some reproach it for its resemblance to them, which have a fundamentally mercantile character, but the truth is that the majority of the critics recognise the merit of this competition for the necessary reassessment of Cuban music. It has had a surprising and unexpected welcome especially among young people.
The winner Yulaysi Miranda looked moved and a bit incredulous when the presenters announced, among the prizes granted, an upcoming tour with Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañón who, according to a material shown, has kept abreast of a contest that also had in its jury the U.S.-born Puerto Rican Víctor Manuelle.
This is an insinuation the interest of the makers of the programme to extend the area of action of the reassessment of Cuba’s music toward the international arena where the young contenders could very well defend the proverbial strength of the Cuban classical repertoire which spared no genre of its vast sonority in the voices of singers who, according to some local critics, could exceed for their quality many established professionals.
The magnificence of the broadcasts, with set designs, wardrobes and make up that are not frequent on Cuban television, is also praised by some, while others opine that it resembles a much copied version of other foreign projects like the already mentioned: the Voz Kid or Operación Triunfo.
In any case, no one dares to retort when there is talk of the necessary rescue of the Cuban musical heritage, from which in recent years young people have been rather distanced due to the influence especially of the reguetón, for many a poor rhythm and with scarce ethical and musical values.
Each Sunday, Cuban families have sat down in front of their TV sets to follow a competition that was also a veritable school for the contestants, advised by a coach – who the media almost forced to be called mentors – for each one of the country’s regions that participated in the contest. They were musicians Pablito FG, who had the idea for the programme, Mayito Rivera and the popular Hayla María Mompié.
The programme resorted to all the resources of the big super production, including interviews with Cuban singers and with the participants up to the dramatic tension with which the presenters assumed their role with excellent results.
“Music to see, hear and win” was the title that the critic of the daily Granma gave to his review, in which he affirms that “This time music won and so did television” though he pointed out that “Sonando en Cuba will have to resolve right away two conflicts.”
According to Pedro de la Hoz, “while the coordination between the processes of formation and search for vocal talents and the access to the artistic and labour market require the competent agencies and institutions to adopt the study of more flexible and unbiased mechanisms, a TV programme must not and cannot be the solution, and less so presenting it as the only alternative.”
Meanwhile, the young commentator from the newspaper Trabajadores and from the Television Cultural Newscast Yuris Nórido pointed out in his written note titled “!Sonó Bien!” (It Sounded Great!) that a TV programme wasn’t necessary to confirm the wealth of Cuban music but for many TV viewers – especially the younger ones – it must have been a revealing experience.
As to its resemblance to other foreign programmes, Nórido is of the opinion that while it is true that there are clear resemblances to international proposals, many of them sustained more for their mercantile interest, in television and in all art the format never defines: what increases its value is the way in which it is assumed.
The case is that whether original or a copy, Sonando en Cuba made many young Cubans listen to their music, something that other institutional or independent spaces have not achieved.
The young people got in contact and appreciated the musical heritage of their country in the voices of persons of their same ages capable of demonstrating that the influences they receive from abroad are not necessarily better or more attractive than their own.
Once the contest’s curtains went down, Cuban television announced the next broadcasting of a similar show, this time dedicated to dance and professional as well as aficionado dancers already have been summoned for auditions.
The singing competition as well as the next one for dance has antecedents on the island and in two very successful programmes of the 1980s: “Para bailar” and “Todo el mundo canta,” which met identical goals in the past, especially in the younger sectors of the population.
The fact is that Sonando en Cuba, whether its detractors want it or not, was a successful initiative and who knows if in other countries it has the same success it has had among the Cuban public. (2016)
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