Hip-Hop en Columbia
Resistencia: Hip-Hop en Columbia is British director Tom Feiling’s attempt to show us the birth of a culture in a nation rocked by drugs, violence, and poverty. Colombia’s hip hop is not the commercial garbage we all know and bathe in. It has nothing to do with money or fame. Hip hop in Colombia is a cultural movement created to react against and speak upon the situations and positions young people have to face. Resistencia: Hip-Hop en Colombia is a documentary that travels through the slums and ghettos of Colombia where this counter culture is just beginning to evolve.
The film begins in the port city of Beunaventura, where children frequently stow away on boats headed out of Colombia for a chance at a new life. We meet the Asilo 38 crew with members from Beunaventura and nearby Cali. They have no DJs, no artists, no dancers, just rhymes and simple salsa inspired beats. Their flows are instilled with anger and hatred for a government that has abandoned them and for the U.S., which has waged war on their people through the “War on Drugs.” These MCs sympathize with the Guerillas and Cartels; they even go so far as to justify kidnappings and terrorist attacks that are plaguing the Colombian landscape. Asilo 38 uses music as a sort of therapy. Unlike most rappers, they do not care who, if anyone, hears them.
Director Tom Feiling takes the audience to the plagued city of Medellin, Colombia. Here we meet the Atomic Rockers Crew. The Rockers relate to the early hip hop culture created in the South Bronx in the early 1980s, recruiting MCs, breakers, graf artists and even human beat boxes. Yet, the Rockers, like Asilo 38, have no DJ. There are very few Colombians who can afford DJ equipment and vinyl records, let alone get their hands on it. The Atomic Rockers Crew inflate local legend/drug kingpin Pablo Escobar to be somewhat of a mythic hero. He built housing and provided jobs for the poor. Escobar did more for the city of Medellin than the government ever did. The Atomic Rockers Crew seem to represent the majority of the population stuck in the middle of the war between the Guerillas and the government.
The final city we visit is the capitol and the center of the hip hop culture in Colombia – Bogota. It is one huge sprawl filled with slum after slum that stretches out for as far as the eye can see. The center of the city is very close to a police state, where thousands of cops in riot gear stand ready to protect the government and the wealthy. A rapper in Bogota sums up their involvement with hip hop best by saying that it “describes a world those in power know nothing about.”
One can make comparisons between hip hop in Colombia and how it started in the U.S. In the U.S. it was created by the poor minorities in the Bronx as a reaction to their harsh living conditions. One can make the argument that it had political, not just social motivations. But in Colombia, it seems to be almost all political. America’s “Plan Colombia,” which sent nearly 1.2 billion dollars in military aid, has left the country in shambles. Guerrillas control much of the country and fight a constant war with the government. 2.2 Million Colombians were displaced throughout Colombia. This has created a generation of lost souls, who will forever witness the violence and poverty arguably caused by the “War on Drugs.” From this generation, Colombian-branded hip hop has been born.
The film is fairly balanced, representing all sides of the conflict: those in support of revolution, those in support of the government and those stuck in the middle. The music created by these artists is nothing special, and in fact it is not even that good. There is not a generation of Tupacs being created in Colombia. Record execs will not being hopping on the next flight to Bogota to sign the next Jay-Z. This film only serves to inform the masses about a culture that is beginning to form. It is cheaply made and poorly put together, but its message comes through strong and clear. The original ideals of raw hip hop are still alive and strong in the streets, almost by necessity.
Side note: This film’s director, Tom Feiling, is currently finishing a similar documentary about the emergence of the hip hop culture in West Africa.
Kevin Jaeger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.