Young Rebels

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It's often said that music is a universal language, and one can similarly say hip-hop has become the dialect of youth culture around the world, with the music and style showing its impact in the United Kingdom, Europe, Japan, the African continent, and nearly everywhere else. Only 90 miles off the coast of the United States, Cuba is no exception, though Cuban rap shows crucial differences compared its American counterpart. Turntables, samplers, and beat-boxes are expensive and difficult to find in Cuba, so lyricists usually work with live bands, and rather than rhyming about "bling" and beefs with other rappers, Cuban MCs tend to have a stronger political focus in their material, though only a wary few dare to criticize the government in their music. One of the few opportunities Cuban rappers have to perform in public is the annual Havana Hip-Hop Festival. Originally organized by underground Cuban rappers, in 2004 the event was sanctioned by the Castro government, which is seen as both a blessing and a curse by local performers. While it gives them a chance at a larger and more diverse audience, it also means potential creative interference from a government not always known for comfortably welcoming new creative voices. Documentary filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck brought their cameras to Cuba for the 2004 festival, and Young Rebels is a documentary which looks at the rise of the island's hip-hop community, the issues that inform their work, and their struggle to express themselves in a culture that hasn't welcomed rap with open arms.


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