The relationship between art and politics is a dynamic co-constitutive one. Art sparks the imagination of young people, unites visions and created a narrative for other possible worlds. Politics sometimes provide the fuel for the creative fire. Latin America today is undergoing a social upheaval. A new generation unaccustomed to dictatorship but unsatisfied with the current political terrain says as much.
Connected to the world like never before, the young are not only taking to the social media and the arts, but they are also taking to the streets. Their powerful voices can be heard in the streets and now too they are here for our enjoyment. Unlike previous protest songs that had to co-exist with a more repressive regime via subversive subtext, these songs are more direct and to the point. However, they maintain the strength and resolution of artists such as Victor Jara, a Chilean singer songwriter who died in captivity.
1. Un Derecho de Nacimiento – Various Artists
A melange of some of the most important contemporary artists in Mexico City sing together: “Yo no naci sin causa/ yo no naci sin fe” (“I wasn’t born without a cause, I wasn’t born without faith”). They sing in this video in front of the Monument of the Mexican Revolution, a powerful message with a visual to match.
2. Señor Matanza – Mano Negra
An earlier song dealing with two of the biggest issues in Latin America: land reform and wealth disparity. It explores the relationship between powerful landowners, politics and the impoverished that live off the land that does not belong to them. “Su palabra es ley” (”His word is the law”). Concentration of power to the extreme without rule of law is a recipe for injustice.
3. Voto Latino – Molotov
With a playful though hostile and often profane attitude Molotov calls attention to racism and separation. “Pinta tu madre patria de colores/ para que puedas ver la difference entre los others.” Translation: “Paint your own motherland in colors, so you can tell the difference between los otros.” Indeed, separations through indicators as silly as colors are often the source of tension and the cause of human injustice. Molotov’s spanglish lyrics also call attention to the interrelatedness across sometimes artificial barriers.
4. Vem Pra Rua – O Rappa
A reaction to the recent wave of social mobilizations in Brazil. “Vem Pra Rua” became one of the most important hashtags on twitter and a call to action to literally “go out to the streets.” Showcasing some of the many issues that have people fed up, the video shows clips from the June protests.
5. Cancion Protesta – Aterciopelados
A softer, upbeat song by one of the most important Colombian bands, Aterciopelados. “Cancion de Protesta” is a call to think for ourselves, to be critical without being accused of anti-patriotism. Independent thinking should not be labeled as terrorism. This is indeed a proud representative of independent spirit, a necessary component of democracy.
Music has the potential to change the world. As Bono has rightly promoted protest songs with the agit8 movement to end poverty, so have these artists incorporated some of the many concerns for a better world. Post below if you have a favorite song that makes you a more conscious global citizen.