Our good friend Spun Counterguy interviews Cuban-born rapper Keren Kmanwey about music, Cuba, and her faith.
Hip-hop, Cuba and God with Keren Kmanwey
Keren Kmanwey is a Cuban-born rapper who took some time to discuss her artistry and personal journey with us recently.
Do you remember when you first heard hip-hop and then when you decided to start writing your own lyrics?
I remember when I started writing my own rap lyrics, I was motivated by my friend Laura González. She has a special prominence in that area of my life because she helped me break the ice in that aspect and to feel safe in starting an artistic career. I was attracted to music since I was born; singing had been a passion. I had exposure to urban music, which I admired at that time, and I still do. I began to make music seriously when I moved to Havana at 18 years of age. It was an unforgettable adventure; I learned a lot in that process and it helped me to discover myself as an artist.
The track of yours that first caught my attention was “Las Plantadas”. Explain to folks outside the Cuban-American community what the song is about.
“Las Plantadas” is one of the last secular songs that I made. It was a song addressed to the Cuban community to call for justice to those women who are treated as political prey, they dying in the prisons of Cuba at the hands of the communist dictatorship. Many are currently suffering unfair sentences for solely political matters. For me being on the side of justice has always been something explicit in my career and “Las Plantadas” continues that theme. The original idea of ??the song is from Ana Olema. She is a person that I admire a lot and that has been important in several processes of my personal life, especially in my migration process from Mexico to the United States. We have seen ourselves involved in several projects together and she told me about this song and asked me to participate. Ana also brought in all the other girls and told us about the original letters of testimonies from different Cuban women. From there we developed the idea of ??the song, each of us focusing our parts on a particular testimony of a specific dissident. It was a long project; we were in this process about a year and although it was difficult to complete, we successfully achieved that I believe.
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Camagüey [Cuba]. I grew up there and lived until I was 18 when I went to Havana to live.
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