In the wake of the recent war between the FARC, the military and para-military forces, the current administration is attempting to distance Colombia from its recent war-torn history. At the same time, narratives of indigenous culture are perpetuated by the continuation of resguardos, Colombian indigenous reservations, while the myriad changes in governing systems create a narrative of evolving political systems. As a result, indigenous people and their cultural traditions are characterized as “past” or “dead.” Moreover, through the divorce from the recent war with the FARC — a group which has its roots in the same regions where many of the indigenous resguardos are located — the administration frames indigenous culture as part of the violent past, while simultaneously engaging indigenous people in a system which is systemically oppressive to indigenous ontology.
The hip-hop duo Linaje Originarios is creating a space for productive political inclusion and cultural promotion that resists hegemony through their online hip-hop music videos in and about their native Emberá. The two cousins Dario and Brayan Tascón, who form Linaje Originarios, come from a resguardo called Valparaíso in the western mountain ranges of Colombia, where they spend most of the year working in the fields. When they are not working, the pair spends their time writing and performing their music on the streets of their resguardo or in the city of Medellín.
The group’s music is a mix of samples entirely downloaded from the internet. Simple drum beats underlie flute melodies while the two teenagers rap in Emberá, a particularly percussive sounding language. Their song “El Candor Pasa,” a traditional Latin American folk tune, starts with a rendition of the tune with traditional instruments. The group samples the introductory flute melody to Simon and Garfunkel’s rendition of the song. With this flute melody, the electronic drum beat enters along with the duo rapping about the Emberá and their beliefs. In an interview with El Tiempo, a popular newspaper in Colombia, the group says that they want to write music not about drugs or violence, but rather the Emberá and their culture.
The Emberá is a people native to modern Colombia and Panama, with sub-groups whose identities are deeply rooted in their ontological relationship to the surrounding terrain. This environmental relationship is reflected in the names chosen by the different populations; for example there are the Eyebida, a name that translates to people of the mountain. Linaje Originarios says they write songs about the environment, their ancestors and peace to preserve and promote the Emberá and indigenous peoples in general.
Their message is furthered through the music videos and aspects of live performance. They often dress in traditional Emberá clothing and head pieces, both live in their videos. Their videos are filmed in resguardo, and depict the scenes of everyday life for the Emberá. The music video for “El Candor Pasa” features lush jungle scenes, with the duo at points rapping in front of waterfalls and rock walls.
The group’s music fully embodies the aspects about their culture that they find most important, while using the medium of hip-hop to reach a wider and younger audience. The group started making their music after freestyling on the streets of Medellín, where a crowd of kids came to listen and inquired about their music. The group felt that by making hip hop music and videos, they could reach generations of people who have disengaged with Emberá. Further, the group aims to engage those unfamiliar with Emberá culture. The group has made a name for themselves, gathering more than 40,000 views on multiple videos, and being featured on the Snapchat platform Mitú. Linaje Orignarios is using the accessibility of the internet as well as the popularity of hip-hop to further their culture in a living way, and promote the inclusion of indigenous beliefs in mainstream dialogue, without operating as a function of the Colombian state.
Benjamin Salinas is a senoir in the College of Arts and Sciences. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.