One day during the late 1960s, renowned Cuban musician and nueva trova composer Pablo Milanés is said to have grown so frustrated with state television head Papito Serguera and other revolutionary officials censoring his songs that he exclaimed “to hell with Papito and his television station!” (p. 151). As it turns out, Milanés’s angry outburst came at a particularly low point in the history of the revolution, when state-led ideological initiatives intended to root out “decadent” foreign influences resulted in the detainment of approximately one-third of the adult male population. Nearly everyone jailed, including Milanés, faced stiff sentences that combined manual labor with various “reeducation” programs.

As the anecdote about Milanés (whose photo as a young, bespectacled bohemian graces the book’s cover) and many other powerful examples discussed in Robin D. Moore’s fascinating study suggest, the history of popular music in Cuba has...

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