Leading Cuban singer songwriter Silvio Rodríguez has criticised the U.S. government for not granting him a visa to perform at the Madison Square Garden concert in New York to mark Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday. Dozens of stars and musician friends played alongside Seeger at the May 3 concert, including Bruce Springsteen and Joan Baez.
“I think the Department of State’s attitude is very contradictory with the wish expressed by President Obama for a rapprochement with Cuba,” Rodríguez told the Cuban Communist party daily Granma.
He added that he felt “as embargoed and discriminated” by the Obama administration “as by other [previous] U.S. governments.”
Rodríguez, who has known Seeger for decades, was invited to perform at the tribute. He was in Paris 48 hours ahead of the concert, but decided to fly to Havana 24 hours before the event when he had not been granted the visa. Rodríguez criticised “the lack of respect shown to the invitation by the Department of State.”
Seeger is widely admired in Cuba, which he has visited five times, for his opposition to the U.S. economic blockade against the island. His version of “Guantanamera” made the Cuban song internationally famous.
In a letter to Seeger published on the Cuban web site www.cubadebate.cu, Rodríguez says “I tried to be with you again, but as you know, those that do not want the United States and Cuba to join, sing, speak and understand together, would not let me arrive… Some of them saw a danger in us meeting up to share a simple act of fraternity that would symbolize two neighboring peoples coinciding in songs and affection.”
Rodríguez, a former elected member of the Cuban parliament, was nominated for a 2007 Latin Grammy award for best album by a singer songwriter. “Erase Que Se Era” (Unicornio) is a compilation of songs Rodríguez wrote between 1968-70.
Together with Pablo Milanés, Rodríguez helped found the politicized nueva trova genre a decade after the 1959 revolution.