The Soundtrack of Revolution Memory, Affect, and the Power of Protest Songs

Tiina Rosenberg
2013 Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research  
All cultural representations in the form of songs, pictures, literature, theater, film, television shows, and other media are deeply emotional and ideological, often difficult to define or analyze. Emotions are embedded as a cultural and social soundtrack of memories and minds, whether we like it or not. Feminist scholarship has emphasized over the past decade that affects and emotions are a foundation of human interaction. The cognitive understanding of the world has been replaced by a
more » ... placed by a critical analysis in which questions about emotions and how we relate to the world as human beings is central (Ahmed 2004: 5-12). It is in this memory-related instance that this article discusses the unexpected reappearance of a long forgotten song, Hasta siempre, as a part of my personal musical memory. It is a personal reflection on the complex interaction between memory, affect and the genre of protest songs as experiences in life and music. What does it mean when a melody intrudes in the middle of unrelated thoughts, when one's mind is occupied with rational and purposive considerations? These memories are no coincidences, I argue, they are our forgotten selves singing to us. Overture We have all been there: Suddenly a melody comes into our head without our knowing how it got there. On a recent trip to Cuba I heard the refrain of a long forgotten song: "Aquí se queda la Clara / la entrañable transparencia / de tu querida presencia / Comandante Che Guevara" (your beloved and luminous presence / became clear here / Comandante Che Guevara). With tears in my eyes I tried to explain to my partner that they were playing the song. "Which song?" she asked, but I was already heading for the bandstand, drawn by the music of Hasta Siempre (Forever), the popular song about Ernesto Guevara, who was better known to the world as Che or "Comandante". It was my emotional and literally melodramatic soundtrack talking back to me. All cultural representations in the form of songs, pictures, literature, theater, film, television shows, and other media are deeply emotional and ideological, often difficult to define or analyze. Emotions are embedded as a cultural and social soundtrack of memories and minds, whether we like it or not. Feminist scholarship has emphasized over the past decade that affects and emotions are a foundation of human interaction. The cognitive understanding of the world has been replaced by a gender analysis in which questions about the relationship between "our" and the "other's" emotions, and how we relate to the world as human beings is central (Ahmed 2004: 5-12). The world is an affective place and life supplies us with melodies we need for our journey. The Greek word meloidia means song. Drama is a specific form of fiction presented in performance. Together they form the compound melodrama. In this memory-related instance the song I heard transformed itself into a haunting melody. Hasta siempre is performed everywhere in Cuba, but it is not the performance of the song as such that concerns me here. It is my musical memory of the song that possessed and refused to let go. It welcomed me and my memories back to Cuba.
doi:10.3384/cu.2000.1525.135175 fatcat:eexh3k52izevxjwfcn5rl4fxdy