Gainesville gets taste of Cuban performers

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 10:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 10:16 p.m.

Rebellion, reggae beats and rock music are the strings that tie together Cuban alternative artists in the Cuban Soul Foundation.

The foundation has been in Gainesville this week and performed at the Cultural Awareness event hosted by the University of Florida's Zeta Beta chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta international fraternity.

UF is the first public university that the foundation has performed at on its university tour.

Pedro Vidal, who graduated from UF in 2005 with a degree in political science, founded the Cuban Soul Foundation as an avenue for Cuban artists to come to the United States and express themselves without fear of oppression.

Whereas punk and rap are relatively new forms of expression, "rock was available when Fidel (Castro) was there," Vidal said. "Rock was the music of rebellion."

The Cuban Soul Foundation, based in Miami, trains artists from Cuba on social media, organizational management and how to market street level events.

"We make sure they have studios to record in back home," Vidal said.

David D Omni, one of the artists on tour, awed the crowd at UF with his unusual brand of punk reggae, flowing dreads and feminine clothing.

D Omni has been in the United States for one month, but he has been making music since he was 5 years old. His first CD titled La Rueda, or the Wheel, was released in 2009.

Vidal, who doubles as the group's mentor and translator, explained the meaning behind D Omni's pink shirt and pink blouse ensemble.

"He wears pink clothes because there is nothing else to wear back home. You have to be a prototype. This is an obvious expression that he is not the same," Vidal said. "When they go back, they can talk about a community that accepted them and didn't judge them because of their clothes."

This is not the first time that D Omni's appearance has been misinterpreted, Vidal said.

In a German airport, D Omni was mistaken as a terrorist and his equipment was destroyed, according to Vidal. This past Halloween, D Omni dressed in a turban and had a turf gun as a prop.

"He had to express to servicemen they are dying for their freedom of expression," Vidal said.

The Cuban Soul Foundation not only opens the frontier for Cubans in the United States but it also bridges the cultural gap that exists between the two countries, Vidal said.

"No information from Cubans in the United States gets to Cubans on the island. There's no school, no church, no cemetery, no hospital. The government built it so people stay away from Havana," Vidal said.

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