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SekouSekou Yosmel Sarrias

Co-founder of the rap duo Anónimo Consejo which ended in 2011 but occasionally still gets together.

From Azúcar negra: (Re)Envisioning Race, Representation and Resistance in the Afrofeminista Imaginary, PhD thesis, 6/13, Kiley Acosta:

"In Cuba, drums represent common, accessible resources for musical production. With skilled local musicians and a plethora of percussion instruments readily available, hip-hop artists weave secular and sacred Afro-Cuban rhythms into background music and interludes. Numerous rap songs also adhere to West African call-and-response structures. The track “Loma y machete” (Hill and Machete) (2007), by Havana rap duo Anónimo Consejo illustrates this fusion. “Loma y machete” begins with the haunting melody “No no no no no no no…” chanted over the duet between a deep, measured conga drum and a güiro 63 scratching out the tempo. Group members Sekou (Yosmel Sarrías Nápoles) and Kokino (Maigel Entenza Jaramillo) alternate reggae style singing and humming with tempered, unhurried rhyming. Their vocals seem to transport listeners back to the slave plantations of colonial Cuba. Lyrically, the raperos eulogize the plights and triumphs of Cuba’s cimarrones (maroon slaves) in the chorus “Loma y machete / no somos esclavos ya / Loma y machete / Ya no hay grilletes mas / (African dialect) / Palo Monte!” In these verses, the cimarrón rejects captivity by discarding his grilletes (shackles) and fleeing to the hills. He clears a path to freedom with his machete, and along this journey the cimarrón recuperates his native language and finds power in the religious practices of Palo Monte. 64 Icons of Afro-Cuban cultural resistance like the cimarrón, the machete and the grillete carry tremendous contemporary relevance for disempowered blacks as audiences throughout the African diaspora may find strength and community in resistance imagery and symbolic reductions of cultural heritage.

In addition to symbolic imagery, Cuban raperos also communicate Afro-centric agendas musically through specific rhythmic patterns of the sacred batá drum, an essential element of Regla de Ocha ritual worship. Known outside of Cuba as Santería, Regla de Ocha religious practices synchretize the Yoruba pantheon of Orishas 65 with Catholic saints and virgins. Regla de Ocha epitomizes one of the earliest manifestations of black resistance in Cuba, as captives from the region of West Africa currently known as Nigeria maintained Yoruba teachings during slavery and colonialism. In the face of forced conversion to Catholicism, elements of Yoruba folklore survived through the integration of Yoruba ritual and worship with Catholic practices (Orisha ayé 2).

The incorporation of Regla de Ocha drum patterns, called toques, in the introductions, interludes and closings of various Cuban rap songs --along with Yoruba chants and references to specific Orishas-- reflect strategic efforts to communicate defining qualities of Afro-Cuban identity and pride through sound. These musical subtleties habitually fly under the radar of listeners. They are almost-exclusively recognizable to cultural insiders familiar with the traditional songs and drumming of Regla de Ocha ritual worship. Anónimo Consejo honors the physical and spiritual resistance of their African ancestors by calling out “Eleggua suena cara el batá. / Aquí está África / Alive in my heart.” They salute Eleggua, a demi-god in Afro-Cuban epistemology 66 with steady batá toques and measured rhyme. The maintenance of these rituals and traditions keeps the rapper-narrators spiritually connected to their ancestral homeland. Blending Yoruba and Spanish raps overtop complex drum patterns; “Loma y machete” is representative of an enduring tendency of Cuban rap to maintain oral and musical Afro-Cuban ritual practices and pay homage to the shared African past of Cuba and other former slave societies."

63 The Cuban güiro is a percussion instrument fashioned from a hollowed gourd. It is played by scratching a stick rhythmically down a series of notches carved into the body of the instrument to produce a ratchet-like sound. The Cuban güiro is commonly used in salsa and cumbia music. Variations of the instrument exist in the Dominican Republic (güira) and Brazil (reco-reco).

64 For information on the religious practices of Palo Monte in Cuba, see Natalia Bolívar Aróstegui and Valencia Porras Potts’ Orisha ayé: La espiritualidad del Caribe al Brasil (2011).

65 In the Yoruba religion, Orishas are akin to demi-gods.

66 In Regla de Ocha, the Orisha Eleggua is a mischievous spirit associated with children. He is believed to control multiple realms of communication and guard the crossroads of life. In ritual practice, practitioners must always pay homage to Eleggua first before commencing any ceremony or activity.


My Reencounter with Cuban Rapper Sekou in Old Havana  12/4/2018 Havana Times: “The world can be falling apart, but if you are building, whatever you are doing is valid. Anne Frank wrote some tough words in her diary at a hard time. What she did was valid. The wellbeing of hip-hop depends on us, on us not allowing disaster and catastrophe from taking over us to the point that we distance ourselves from what we are doing”.

A lo “griot”: El veterano rap afrocubano de Sekou  3/8/2015 Dialogo: "Mi primera conexión con el Rap de Puerto Rico fue cuando escuche Vico C, un maestro para nosotros, también toda la generación en The Noise, Dj Playero y por supuesto años después el Clásico Boricua Guerrero, ¡eso fue una bomba! Realmente por mucho tiempo no tuve conocimiento de grupos netamente de Rap de Puerto Rico hasta que estando en Cuba (mi esposa) Apolonia me pone temas de 79, Intifada,Tráfico Pesado, Tek One, Velcro y “El Día” de YallZee. Esto era totalmente nuevo para mí aunque estos grupos llevan muchísimos años de trayectoria. Sobre la situación sociopolítica, creo que sí es inaceptable la injerencia extranjera en los asuntos internos de nuestros países."

NUESTRO de Sekou: un puente etnomusical entre Cuba y Venezuela  12/22/2014 Emetrece Productions: 'NUESTRO, el nuevo disco del rapero y cantautor cubano Yosmel “Sekou” Sarrías Nápoles, nos brinda mucho más que una maqueta musical novedosa con instrumentales eclécticos y vocales ingeniosos. NUESTRO no es suyo, es clarividentemente nuestro, elevando a Sekou de un portavoz musical del rap a un profeta sonoro del colectivo social."

The Cuban Rap Agency Controversy (Sekou’s Version)  2/1/2012 Havana Times: by Yusimi Rodriguez - "HT: You weren’t bothered that Magia was a woman who was directing a lot of male rappers? Sekou: That’s not the case. We’ve always had female directors at the Rap Agency. If another woman director comes later, that’s fine. I think men have held more than enough management positions in the world for more than enough time. If a woman is leading and doing the job, at least in my personal case, that’s not a problem. But it’s a problem if someone is in that position to carry out certain responsibilities but they don’t fulfill them as they should. If tomorrow they make another woman the director, that’s fine. But as artists we want them to do their job for us. We want to have a director who facilitates things for us. I want someone who will help me if I want to do a concert that requires a lot of logistics. I want someone who will support me with the expenses. However, if you can’t help me but you can spend money on yourself, then what’s up with that? Those are things one might suspect and comment about, but when you go through the paperwork you realize that it’s an objective fact."

9/11 and the Cuban Hip Hop Revolution  9/12/2011 Huffington Post: "In July 2002, rapper Sekou Umoja from the group Anónimo Consejo spoke passionately to a gathered crowd at the Casa de la Cultura. Sekou, formerly known as Yosmel Sarrías, had taken on an African name to emphasize his spiritual connections with Africa. "You have people saying, 'You're Cuban, you're Cuban, but they're not, they're not.' Well then, where did 'they' come from? They come from Africa. We have Afro-Cubans in Cuba, Afro-Americans in America, Afro-British in England, and if you're born in Russia with this color skin, are you gonna come to Cuba and try to say that I'm Russian?"

Descarga final del concierto. Sekou de Anónimo Consejo  9/30/2010 Estado de Sats  

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