Conflicts & War

Peru’s protests get lyrical as artists voice nation’s discontent with music

By Carla Samón Ros

Lima, Feb 8 (EFE).- Protests that have gripped Peru have spilled into the nation’s music scene with artists taking to hip hop, rock, reggae and punk to voice their discontent.

“This democracy is no longer a democracy, Dina, murderer, the people repudiate you,” is one the most popular chants that have echoed across the many demonstrations calling for president Dina Boluarte’s resignation.

The leader came to power in December 2022 following her predecessor Pedro Castillo’s failed self-coup.

Since demonstrations erupted in December, dozens of artists have composed protest songs that overwhelmingly call for the end to Boluarte’s government and condemn the death of at least 47 people who have been killed during clashes with the authorities.

In Pau The Kid and Jah Man’s latest track, Dina Balearte, the pair sing along to a mellow reggae rhythm: “Dina, your culture is murderous, you don’t represent the streets or life, genocidal government.”

They use the track, which is a play on words with her surname to reference the people who have died at the protests, to accuse her of falling in line with the “fascists of Congress” despite being elected “for the people.”

Boluarte served as vice president under Castillo, a rural school teacher who won the 2021 elections.

“You betrayed your people and now there is no turning back,” well-known punk-rock band Diazepunk decries in their new song.

Over in the hip-hop scene, young Quechua rapper Liberato Kani talks of Lima’s centralism and how the nation’s constitution, which was drawn up under the government of former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), needs an overhaul.

“Chankas, Inkas, Aymaras, Ashaninkas, we are rising up (…) we are tired, the laws that are passed are for the benefit of you (…) a people that rises up amid so much repression from a Constitution from 1993,” he raps.

Íber Maraví, who was Castillo’s Labor minister, has also turned to music to attack the conservative government, this time to the strumming of a Spanish guitar.

“We are social fighters (…) We are not terrorists, you terrorists,” the former politician, who has been accused of links to the Shining Path guerilla group, snaps.

But perhaps the verses that have resonated the most speak of the southern city of Juliaca, in the Puno region, which has been one of the epicenters of the protests and where on January 9, 17 protesters died in clashes.

“Justice, justice (is) what I ask for and seek for the fallen, for my murdered and massacred people,” Puno singer-songwriter JMacelly sings in his song Lady of Repression.

Rock band AsimetriK released “Juliaca in January” in memory of “the brothers who fell in the massacre of January 9”.

“Murderers hide behind their law, they call us terrorists, they call us a minority, while they loot our homeland and our people suffer in agony,” the band denounces.

According to sociologist Omar Coronel, the surge in protest music is something Peru has not seen in two decades.

The expert tells Efe the last time a similar cultural event happened was in 2000 during the Four Quarters March that helped corner the Fujimori government.

The “tremendous novelty we are now seeing”, says Coronel, is that the music rather than coming from urban environments is coming “from the provinces, from the Andean tradition,” which is breaking the custom of having Lima as the main producer of mainstream music. EFE

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