English-language press has described Carlos Varela as "Cuba's Bob Dylan," for lack of a better analogy. This is somewhat accurate, as Varela is an iconic singer/songwriter with deep folk roots. His own style, however, is singularly Cuban. In his 20s, he joined the so-called Nueva Trova movement, a musical scene that first arose on the island in the late '60s. "Trova," originally, was an old Cuban music genre played by wandering guitarists, but Nueva Trova, in the wake of Castro's revolution, upped the ante and made the style political.
Nueva Trova's history is complicated. On one hand, its artists have railed against social injustices. On the other, many of the genre's classic songs have a distinct anti-U.S. bent, an angle that was very much supported by the Castro regime. Varela, however, never fell into the latter category, and in fact, he has been one of the few famous artists in the genre to openly criticize Castro's government. As such, even though he's chosen to remain in Cuba, this has allowed him to escape the usual exile censure, and Saturday's show in Miramar is sandwiched between two Miami performances.