2007. Alonso Gil + Francis Gomila. GUANTANAMERA (theoretical data)

With torture music, our culture is no longer a means of individual expression, instead, it is an actual weapon.” Moustafa Bayoumi. Professor at Brooklyn College, New York


Guantanamera is a multimedia project that reflects on the use of music as a torture instrument. The piece will be located inside one of the air vents of Madrid’s Subway that leads onto the street and will be audio-visually experienced from outside, i.e., from the street.

Our proposals consists of installing a high-amplification sound system inside one of the metro’s air vents that leads onto the street, blasting all the existing versions of the song La guantanamera, including those of Celia Cruz, Los lobos, Compay Segundo, Tito Puente, Nana MousKouri, The Maveriks, and The Fugees, among many others, as well as versions specifically performed by artists and musicians for this project.

The strange development within the American military structure after the Vietnam War made it possible for a number of high rank members of the military intelligence to start thinking in innovative ways, adapting various obscure New Age theories to military strategy activities.

Currently, in the war on terrorism, America’s military forces have used pop music, rap and heavy metal, as a means to torture military prisoners. They have mainly used sleep deprivation, as a form of systematic disorientation that in most cases leads to madness. Songs by Eminem and Doctor Dre, among others, are used in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo.

During the age of the Inquisition there were different artefacts to torture and obtain confessions, a practice that disappeared in time. Although those machines may not exist, methods have evolved, and to have a sound system and a record is enough material to torture.

If the British used white noise in their interrogations of Irish Republicans, Americans prefer their own music. “Those people have never heard heavy metal. They can’t stand it”, said a Guantanamo interrogator to Newsweek. “Eminem is so alien to them that they go crazy”, added another one in Afghanistan, (quoted in ABC).

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “prisoners were subject to rap music and heavy metal for extended periods of time at high volume”. In the Guantanamo prison they used Eminem, Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica and even Bruce Springsteen. The song Bodies (cadavers), by the metal band Drowning Pool was used in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Haj Ali, an Iraqi man tortured in the Abu Ghraib prison, who appeared in an infamous picture having to keep himself on a cross position while hooded, had to listen, hour after hour, day after day, to David Gray’s Babylon, at full blast volume in his cell. It’s ironic because many of Eminem’s and Doctor Dre’s songs encourage victims of social injustice to stand and rebel.

The media has described a series of very aggressive measures used for long. For example, those prisoners who are unwilling to cooperate are stripped, chained to a chair that is attached to the ground and exposed to strobe lights, rock music and deafening rap, repeating songs constantly, about 50000 times, from speakers that are close to the ear. The captives are forced to listen to music at unbearable volume levels 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

La guantanamera is the most internationally rec¬ognised song of the Cuban song book. This catchy tune, which has travelled the world over represent¬ing Cubans as an anthem, was adapted by Julián Orbón based on a poem by José Martí. The melody exists since the 19th century and Joseito Fernández employed in his noticiario cantado (sang news) radio broadcasts during the forties.

The origin of the word Guantanamo comes from the Taino people, the aborigines of that area of Cuba, and means “river of the earth”. It is precisely this geographical area where the American naval base is located..