How Petr became Pedro and forged a conexion with Cuban musicians


In our increasingly globalised world, cross-cultural musical collaborations are becoming ever more common, and you couldn’t find a better example of this trend than the work of Pedro Rodriguez. A DJ, producer and rapper whose passport reads Petr Kulíšek, he has forged a unique partnership between Cuban and Czech musicians with a project named La Conexion.

Rodriguez is currently wintering in Cuba, as he does every year. But just before he left recently, he told me how his relationship to the repressive island state began a decade ago.

“I was in Cuba as a normal tourist, and I really fell in love with the local music. I started to visit Cuba every year. I also studied in Cuba for one year, in Santiago de Cuba…I completely changed when I visited Cuba, I don’t know why! [laughs].”

How old were you when you first went there, and what was it about Cuba that made you love the place?

“I was 24. First I loved the people – it’s completely different from Europe…”

Tell us about your name. Your stage name is Pedro Rodrigeuz, but your real name is Petr Kulíšek.

“The people kept calling me Pedro, Pedro, so I decided I had to change my name. I was playing as a DJ and DJ Petr Kulíšek looks…it’s not Latin. I changed it to DJ Pedro Rodrigeuz, which is like [common Czech name] Petr Novák…”

What kind of clubs do you play at in Cuba, what kind of places do you play?

La Conexion
“I’ve played at two or three festivals. Also two or three years ago, when I was studying in Santiago de Cuba, I met the local hip hop groups, and we decided to do some work together. I made a production project called La Conexion, and we’ve released an album on Faust records.

“I’m also doing a documentary about the group. Also people can see some videos we’ve made in Cuba.

“It’s hip hop, with Latin styles, like merengue, reggaeton, and we’ve also had a lot of success in Cuba.

“And here I play as a DJ at several clubs in Prague, at some festivals. Not every week, but two or three times a month.”

Was the music you’ve made with La Conexion released only in the Czech Republic, or in Cuba too?

“It was released here, but in Cuba we don’t sell the CDs, it was a promo: we gave away two or three thousand copies.

“They play some songs on the local radio stations. I think we were successful…you know, the production is from the Czech Republic, the music, but the idea is Latin, and all the lyrics are from Cuba. So it’s something different.”

One of your songs is a radically different version of a song by Karel Gott. Can you tell us about that?

“That was my idea, because when we were sitting with the guys from La Conexion I said, we have to do something in combination with the classic Czech pop style, so I took the song Lady Karneval and changed into a reggae style.

“Finally I sent it to Karel Gott. He listened to it and saw the video. But I had a bit of a problem with the owners of the rights, Svoboda and Štaidl, and I had to be very careful. In the end we didn’t release it – we just did it and that was that.

“I have other ideas. I am inviting hip hop people from Slovakia, from New York, from Miami, we have international co-operation.”

I know you go to Cuba every year for the winter – you’re a kind of snow bird in that respect. Do you plan to keep going to Cuba indefinitely?

“Yes, of course, because my wife is Cuban…I am every day in contact with the language, with the Cuban people. So, yes, I am planning to go to Cuba every winter.”

La Conexion
Would you like to move their permanently?

“Some day, when I’m older, because it’s more relaxed, not so stressed. I am planning to stay there. I know some people from Canada, from Italy, who have been living there for years.”

Can I ask you a little bit about the politics of Cuba, because there is no question that there is some repression there. For example the former Czech president Václav Havel said people shouldn’t even go on holiday to Cuba, because there are people in prison there just for expressing their beliefs. What do you say to that?

“After 10 years of experience I think this year and last year it’s more…you know, Cubans can now go to hotels, they can do their own business – they did their own business before, but it was black business.

“Musicians can now go to other countries…I would like to invite La Conexion here. We don’t have a problem just to bring them here, but we just have a problem with the economics, because it’s eight people.

La Conexion
“But finally I think life in Cuba is changing. You have clubs there, you have restaurants. They maybe have some problems, economic problems, but a lot of Cubans are living in other countries and are helping, sending money.

“Also a lot of tourists are going there, spending a lot of money, because it’s a nice country.

“My opinion is that it will change, but it will not change overnight.”