‘Rap Cubano’ adds to WKU’s International Year of Cuba

Taylor Metcalf

Magia Lopez and Alexey Rodriguez of Obsesión gave a performance in Van Meter Hall Monday unlike anything WKU had ever seen.

Lopez and Rodriguez were invited to WKU on behalf of the Cultural Enhancement program, and the rap duo represented Cuba in a way no one ever had before. The event was co-sponsored by The International Year Of… program that had chosen Cuba as the 2018-2019 country to honor.

The lights of Van Meter dimmed over the audience, illuminating the stage in reds, blues, pinks and purples. After an introduction by Larry Snyder, the chair of Cultural Enhancement and dean of Potter College or Arts and Letters, the rap duo stepped on stage and began speaking to the crowd in clear Spanish.

With the help of student translators, Lopez and Rodriguez told their stories of Cuba, including how they grew up watching Soul Train and trying to copy dance moves and their desire to bring attention to the current issues Cuba is facing. Both members were very involved in social issues in Cuba such as race, gender, aging and special education.

Lauren Reyes, the Office of International Programs coordinator, had high hopes for Obsesión and their impact on the WKU audience.

“Obsesión was chosen so that WKU and the community could experience Cuban culture both through their music and through their message about social activism,” Reyes said.

Reyes said a group of faculty attended the Zuheir Sofia Endowed International Faculty Seminar in Cuba and were impressed with Lopez and Rodriguez’s “talent and commitment to making a difference.” The duo was formed in 1996 and continued to create music and other art forms for the people in and outside of Cuba.

Lopez and Rodriguez had no hesitance in sharing their music and poetry that addressed life in Cuba and the problems that they and others faced every day.

Rodriguez said there came a period when “they needed to speak their truth.”

Lopez passionately recited a poem called “My Beauty” from one of their albums. The poem spoke to the beauty of oneself saying, “I am beautiful, do not deny it you will become illiterate.”

The rap demonstrations allowed their passion for music and the rights of people to fully shine through. Music played in the background as the duo rapped along in Spanish, moving about the stage and interacting with the crowd. As Lopez and Rodriguez rapped and sang, the lights shifted with the beat, swiftly changing from reds to greens to blues.

One of their songs, “The Life,” had a deep bass that filled Van Meter as the duo rapped about the lives of people in Cuba and their everyday challenges, how they deal with them and the benefits that come from overcoming them. The bass drummed through the chests of the crowd as the pair danced around the stage.

Lopez stood at the edge of the stage as she rapped to the audience and both halves of Obsesión smiled as they performed.

The performance ended with a Q&A where Lopez and Rodriguez spoke with the crowd and answered questions with the help of the translators.

Daniela Rosales, one of the student translators, enjoyed her experience with Obsesión and believed the audience did as well.

“They’re really nice,” Rosales said. “They worked with us when we were trying the translate their work, so it was great. I just passed people and a lot of them said they loved it and were thankful for it.”

Obsesión’s performance seemed to be a success among the crowd, who clapped and sang along when given the opportunity.

Features reporter Taylor Metcalf can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].