Bolivian Hip Hop

It’s been said that music forms us. Music
is what it is. It doesn’t represent something else. It stands on its own. So
it’s intriguing that Bolivian youth have adapted hip hop from urban United
States to express their frustration with poverty and an unresponsive government
that discriminates against young, urban indigenous poor.

I do not care
if my music is
pirated. The
money is not
important. What
we want is
to send out
our lyrics so
they can influence.
–Grover Canaviri

Music shapes us. It is what it is. It doesn’t represent something else. It’s an esthetic experience and a message. It’s entertainment and communication.

In a world where everything points to something else, or is used for profit, thus not valuable on its own but valuable because it represents some other form of gain, money, prestige, power or self-esteem, music stands as the last authentic form of communication.

Of course, it too can be exploited, but knowing this, we tune it out because we recognize the cynical use of an art form for commerce. We’re not fooled and we let it pass by without biting the bait.

I read with interest a piece in the New York Times about Bolivian youth who have adapted the pose of urban U.S. hip-hop and are expressing their social discontent through the music,

There is a global youth culture. I’ve seen young folks in Ghana taking the dress and pose of hip-hop. I’ve watched young folks in South Korea not only “do” hip-hop but also break-dance. The global communications delivery system spreads culture immediately and young people appropriate it and make it their own.

As I’ve seen it, it isn’t just affectation. It’s not just kids posing as if they are trying out some new identity. Certainly there is some of that, but it seems to be more than playing a role.

What I’ve observed is young folks taking an expressive form and making it their own. They customize it, if you will, and infuse it with their own life experience and apply it to their own social circumstances. This makes it authentic, I think, in a way that goes beyond the surface appearances and gets at the root of the lived experience in their own culture.

This deserves more discussion than I’ve given it here. But I note it because it seems to be a culture without borders. And it seems to be a culture created by young people themselves, taking elements from wherever they wish and re-mixing them into a fresh expression that is authentic for them in a particular place and time.

I think it’s another example of reality being shaped by the sharing of images, sound and visuals through digital and electronic media. These ingredients are appropriated, re-mixed and transformed into a new and authentic expression of the life experiences of the young people who refine them and use them.

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