Colombia is a country used to using music as a response to violence, it does so on a fine line that oscillates between celebration and death. During the 20 days of a social outbreak that already leaves at least 41 civilians dead, it has become a forceful voice to raise criticism of the Government. A new wave of protest song to the rhythm of salsa, rap or champeta makes its way and sounds among the thousands of young people who have taken to the streets.
The country has exported musicians such as Shakira, Juanes, JBalvin or Maluma, who mark the sentimental education of millions of people beyond Colombian borders. Some of them have already spoken out on the situation, such as Shakira: “I ask the Government of my country to take urgent measures, stop the violation of human rights and restore the value of human life above any political interest.” He said. However, it is anonymous musicians and others only recognized locally who are at the foot of the denunciations of repression.
The artists have also lent their social networks as a platform to promote protests. For more than two weeks, the singer Adriana Lucía has broadcast live for more than a million followers. She rejected the invitation of the president, Iván Duque, to meet at the government headquarters. “This is not about me, but about all the people out there. There are communities that have been waiting for years to be heard and I will not be the one to occupy that place that does not correspond to me. There are many mothers crying for their children, who were violently repressed ”, declared the artist, who proposed to Duque that they undertake public and transparent dialogues. International artists have joined the pronouncements of Colombian musicians. The Puerto Rican Residente has collaborated with direct from Instagram and has asked for support from human rights organizations. “I am going to do everything possible so that what has to reach the United Nations and the people who have to come to help reach the United Nations,” he said.
Reissue of protest music
With intricate geography and such dispersed demonstrations, it is difficult to choose an anthem that brings together all the protesters. In Cali, one of the epicenters of the protests, salsa choke, a mixture of salsa and urban sounds – an expression of the Afro-descendant popular neighborhoods – is the rhythm of the complaint that focuses on the public force. The Tombos Are Some Hp Go Go, by AndressDj, El Flaco & Su Ponche, which speaks of the demonstration as a rumba (party) that the policemen (tombos) come to damage, has become an anthem at some points of the riots. From that region of southwestern Colombia also came “The people do not give up, damn it”, a song that is sung throughout the country today.
“There is an explosion of creativity and hundreds of songs are being made,” says producer Iván Benavides, the brain behind musical projects such as those of Carlos Vives, Sidestepper, Aterciopelados and Chocquibtown, among other artists. For him, the work of Edson Velandia and Adriana Lizcano stands out. Velandia, a musician from Piedecuesta, in the east of the country, who makes a mix of rock, peasant music and humor that is known as rasqa, has produced songs like The Infiltrator, All Giveaways O The forgetful.
“We must highlight the production of many young musicians who are not seeking recognition, but who identify with the movement and work from home collaborating with others,” adds music journalist Carlos Solano. It is, he adds, a reissue of what Latin America knew as a genre of protest.
The social unrest has managed to multiply songs and mobilizations in record time and is evidenced in mass events, such as a Canto por Colombia, a mobile concert, with artists on trucks, which began in the 2019 protests and that its organizers think reissue.
The expressions range from symphonic cacerolazos to virtual concerts, such as the National Disconcert, in Bogotá and Medellín. “It is increasingly difficult to live in this country, to think of a future where we can retire, to be able to work,” says Susana Gómez, better known as Susana Boreal, director of the Revolutionary Symphony Orchestra, which brought together 200 musicians with their instruments and scores while hundreds of people shouted: “The people, united, will never be defeated.”
Boreal, now known as “the baton of protest”, says that it was not something organized. “It was the idea of the trumpeter Juan Ernesto Arias, who sent an audio voice and we were excited. That same day the composers sent us some arrangements, we made a call through WhatsApp and Telegram and at night the scores arrived ”. What happened the next day has become one of the most emblematic moments of the protests in Colombia and led to the Deconstructed anthem, a new version of the Colombian anthem, but with the imperial march of the saga of Star Wars. “That is a hymn that has something of what we are living, like a cloak of horror and blood, but it also talks about rebuilding. Musicians have had a very bad time in the midst of the pandemic and we will continue to demonstrate because, as the phrase says: ‘They took everything from us, even fear. We have nothing to lose ”, concludes Boreal.
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