By: Karina N. GonzálezBob Marley’s Redemption Song: Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our minds. Cultura Profética’s Somos Muchos: Hay que evolucionar. Mira, no hay marcha atrás. Somos la gente que deja huella.
Reggae music originated from Jamaican resistance to British colonial rule as a form of political protest. Considering the social, political, and cultural context of this popular music form is especially important when discussing bands like Cultura Profética. Unified by their mutual love and appreciation of reggae music and social justice, the band was formed in 1996. Cultura is an independent band, unafraid of experimenting with musical genres that fall outside of the constraints of mainstream music today. The band incorporates a range of themes and topics such as colonialism, capitalism, human rights, environmentalism, spirituality, and interpersonal relationships. The influence of Jamaican reggae music in neighboring Puerto Rico can be seen as the afterglow of Bob Marley’s untimely passing.
Eliut González and Boris Bilbraut from the reggae band Cultura Profética spoke with La Respuesta magazine during the annual Afro-Latino Festival of New York. The festival was a celebration of afrolatinidad through dance, film, music, and visual arts. Cultura Profética, one of the bands invited to perform at the festival, has previously released songs that highlight African genealogy in Puerto Rico with rhythmically intoxicating beats. For example, “Borinquén tiene sangre negra en las venas” is one of the lines in their song, Advertencia. In our interview, Boris shared with us that, “Essentially, all of our music is influenced by genres with African roots like bomba, plena, jazz, reggae, and salsa. This is why you can feel the African roots within the music of Cultura Profética.” Eliut added, “The Afro-Latino Festival is a cultural exchange and we feel honored to be here sharing this moment with many talented musicians.”
In Puerto Rico, Cultura is known as a versatile band that expresses concern over serious socio-political issues but also celebrates the beauty of life and love. After having released five albums, Cultura’s fan base reaches throughout the Americas and shows no signs of slowing down. “We have a growing fan base and that tells you that people are admiring, listening, and attentive of the social justice aspect of our music,” stated Boris. To combat against feelings of disempowerment stemming from the colonial mentality in both Puerto Rico and within the diaspora, Boris underlined the importance of lyrics carrying social significance and said, “Cultura Profética’s social justice involvement is the foundation of our musical work.” Regarding the island’s current socio-political status and fiscal crisis, Eliut stated, “This [fiscal crisis] was something that was expected – even predicted – decades ago by brilliant intellectuals and economists alike. It’s sad, but at the same time there is going to come a moment when the system will collapse and there will have to be a change. People have to wake up.”
Unlike many corporate-affiliated musicians, Cultura firmly believes in using music as a form of activism in the community. In 2000, the band participated in a benefit concert – alongside Roy Brown and Fiel a la Vega – in opposition to the military occupation of Vieques. “We felt that we were part of that fight and left behind our own grain of sand with a song dedicated to the struggle in Vieques – which was used as a point of conversation for many individuals on the island,” shared Eliut. Most recently, the band’s newest single Saca, Prende, y Sorprende advocates for the legalization of marijuana. It is no wonder that reggae finds itself in Cultura Profética’s unique musical style because, in Jamaica, reggae served as a medium to advance social causes and foster a collective consciousness. Cultura has preserved the essence of Jamaican reggae against colonial oppression. Eliut strongly stated, “It’s time to break the archaic chains of colonialism. Puerto Rico has incredible potential.”
Currently, the massive migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States is causing considerable concern on the island. Many Boricuas, particularly recent college graduates, have left the island in search of greater economic sustenance in the United States. Today, there are more Puerto Ricans living in the diaspora than on the island. La Respuesta asked the group about their thoughts on the migration. “The Puerto Ricans that live here [in the US] feel the desire and the necessity to fight for the island desde afuera – we see this each time we travel and encounter individuals like yourself,” shared Boris. He also stated that leaving the island “can be a personal decision but my thoughts are that people should stay on the island – especially the youth as we work to try to move the island forward.”
The fate of Puerto Rico truly lies in the hands of its people, not corporations or self-serving politicians. It is through activism and education that Boricuas can liberate themselves from the colonial mentality and reclaim what is rightly theirs. Eliut emphasized the need to regain a connection to the land through organic farming and environmental awareness and said, “We support the organic food revolution on the island. One of the principle problems has to do with current trade laws which undermine local farming.”
Puerto Rico is a precious group of islands with equally beautiful, kind-hearted people. Musicians such as the members of Cultura Profética recognize and translate the beauty of Puerto Rico to the world through music. The band fuses lyrics about love, compassion, social consciousness and resistance in a way that’s appealing and approachable. La Complicidad, one of the band’s most popular songs, is an example of how Cultura neatly intertwines these various elements to create a song with soulful lyrics and relaxed vibe:
Soy la locura que estremece, soy tu adicción y tu eres mi felicidad, mi calma. Soy una colonia que va en busca de liberación, y tu eres esa dosis de esperanza.
We can look forward to Cultura Profética’s next album release at the end of the year. “Dare I say, our next album is probably our best one yet. It’s a bit of everything – a mix of the ideas shared in all of the previous albums. We’ve also traveled extensively throughout Latinoamérica and those experiences will be reflected in the new album,” shared Eliut.
Legendary Argentinian folk singer and songwriter, Facundo Cabral once stated, “Art is the most beautiful religion.” By his standard, Cultura Profética is well on its way to leaving its own indelible huellas.
Karina N. González was born in the Bronx, NY and raised in New Jersey. She spent most of her summers with her grandmother in Vega Baja, PR, where she cultivated her love for Puerto Rican culture. Karina previously attended la Universidad de Puerto Rico-Recinto Mayagüez, and Fashion Institute of Technology, where she earned a degree in Textile/Surface Design. Currently, Karina lives in Brooklyn, NY (although her second home is Aguadilla, PR) and is pursuing her graduate studies in Speech-Language Pathology at Brooklyn College.