Reyna and Real Rock DC

Cuban hip-hop duo La Reyna y Real are known for breaking barriers. As women in a male-dominated industry on a machista island, the musicians use their music to dissect and dismantle gender roles and societal stereotypes. In the land of salsa, timba and reggaeton, the two have worked tirelessly to build a following and make it onto the airwaves as female rappers with a full band behind them. They’ve won a number of national and international awards for their edgy and genre-bending music.

 Photo by Nick Onken

Photo by Nick Onken

Aside from making music, the rappers are strong advocates for cultural exchange between Cuba and the United States. Reyna and Yadira spend many afternoons welcoming new friends in their homes and neighborhoods, searching for common ground and building bonds with Americans interested in their music. It was no surprise that Reyna and Real were invited by the Kennedy Center to represent Cuban hip-hop in the “Artes de Cuba” celebration. In true Reyna y Real fashion, the visit to DC would be much more than just a concert.

 The band lands at Reagan National in Washington, DC.

The band lands at Reagan National in Washington, DC.

Kennedy Center Performance

Reyna y Real’s Kennedy Center performance was magnificently intimate, raw and personal. The music hall was filled with recent Cuban travelers, many of whom spent time with Reyna y Real in their homes and had memorized their lyrics. This included dozens of little league baseball players, who bopped their heads and sang along, remembering how Reyna y Real performed for them months before in Havana. One DC woman, so inspired by the duo’s work when visiting Cuba last month, brought 25 of her friends and family to enjoy the show. The energy and emotion were on full display during the closing song when over a dozen members of the audience joined the band on stage, dancing and smiling along with their Cuban friends.

Engaging with the Community

Eager to learn and make new friends, Reyna y Real worked with Cuba Educational Travel to network with DC-area musicians, provide workshops and performances at local middle and high schools, tour historic African-American and Latino neighborhoods and build bridges with the Cuban-American community. They also met with Members of Congress to discuss the important of cultural and educational exchange between the US and Cuba and negative impact of the embargo.

 Reyna y Real perform at DCPS bilingual elementary school, Oyster Adams, during the school's Poetry Festival.

Reyna y Real perform at DCPS bilingual elementary school, Oyster Adams, during the school's Poetry Festival.

 The band visits the National Museum of African American History and Culture with Congressmember Karen Bass. 

The band visits the National Museum of African American History and Culture with Congressmember Karen Bass. 

 Reyna and Real tour NPR's Washington office and stop by the infamous Tiny Desk space. 

Reyna and Real tour NPR's Washington office and stop by the infamous Tiny Desk space. 

The Power of Engagement

These important cultural exchanges bring people together and give individuals the opportunity to learn and share with one another. Reyna and Real's trip was a huge success and in their words "a life changing and magical experience."  

Reach out to CET if you’re interested in visiting with Reyna y Real in Cuba, or having Cuban musicians visit your school or community program in the US. We’re all about building bridges and bringing our countries together.

Collin Laverty