Anónimo Consejo ("Anonymous Advice") is a hot Cuban rap duo with an athletic approach to restrictions on free speech. Their music is lilting and their lyrics are pointed and political: a dynamite combination that has propelled them to become one of the most enduring and widely remarked of the island's many rap groups.
Dreadlocked, tall, sporting Jamaican colors on his military-style jacket, Yosmel Sarrias (Sekou) looks more rasta than rap. His partner, Maigel Entenza (Kokino), goes for a more Old Skool, pre-bling style with close-cropped hair and phat sneakers. " dress kind of free but it's more Hip Hop," Kokino agrees. "And Sekou, since we were kids he's always had a more Afro-Cuban style, he dresses Rastafari, with dreadlocks and a beard. He's a vegetarian, I eat meat. All this matured with time, we became more aware of who we are. And in terms of the music, the more melodic parts, the singing is done by Sekou, even though he raps really well, and I do the rap. In terms of the music and the flow, we've always had these Rasta influences, this special characteristic."
"It would never occur to me to tell Kokino, 'Don't put on that baseball cap'," adds Sekou. "And obviously he would never think of telling me, 'Shave'. Because we feel good like this, and it's very important and each of us can identify themselves the way they feel, you know? Human diversity is immense, and nobody should have to hide who he is, what he feels like, how he looks at life and plans to approach its challenges."
It's an interesting statement: articulate, tolerant, but also firm, with none of the sloppiness of the auto-pilot multiculturalism that musicians sometimes display for interviews. Sekou and Kokino are thoughtful, challenging, clear. "Big musicians sometimes call us the Van Vans of rap," laughs Kokino, referring to Los Van Van, the reigning superstars of Cuban timba. "We've been around for a long time, through every kind of trend and change. We watched people change their style when reggaeton came around so they could have more success, a better quality of life. And today none of them are left but we're still here."
The constellation of rappers that surged forth in Havana in the mid-1990s was not always so peaceful or reflective. "A kind of rivalry was building, a little like the rivalry in the U.S. between the West Coast and the East Coast, between Biggie and Tupac," Kokino explains. "At rap concerts you'd hear a lot of 'I'm not from the east, I'm from the west' and that led to some fights." Home for Sekou and Kokino is Cojimar, in the high-rises east of Havana. The duo steered clear of the rap battlefield and modified their presentation, adopting a style clearly derived from the Cuban government's emphasis on military service and the example of Che Guevara: khaki jackets, military caps, Che t-shirts. "At the time everyone was wearing Fubu, Nike or Reebok," Kokino says, "and all of a sudden we had this radical style, and we also began a more radical discourse regarding race and socio-cultural policy."
"Anonimo Consejo is an eternal apprenticeship," Sekou adds. "In the toughest moments, AC kept strong. AC is resistance, AC here and now is the proof that if you love something, you can fight for that thing you've always loved and always will love. AC is us, we have different dynamics and different energies and maybe that's why it still works."
So why the name? "'Anonymous Advice' means simply that you don't need to know us for us to try to change your life. It's like a TV where you can't see the picture but you can hear the sound. And that sound helps you be a better person. That's what Anonimo Consejo means, and also peace, liberty, love, justice and may God bless us."