If you’re a young adult in Venezuela and not an active supporter of the dictatorship, you probably took part in the protest movement of April-July in some way. The struggle and its abrupt end have become a recurring topic of every gathering.

When I told Carlos, a dear friend and local musician, that I was set to write about the role of music as part of the resistance, he was dispirited to think of how all the combined efforts of so many was all for naught.

“Now you’ll have to write something like so much blood for nothing. There was a time during the fight when the musicians got mad, and sung for hope and peace… para que igual fuera la Constituyente.

During the plantón organized by UCAB Guayana students, Carlos sang a rendition of La Vida Bohème’s El Zar, followed by a self-composed song titled Guasina, after the infamous concentration camp where political prisoners were tortured during the Pérez Jiménez regime.

There was a time during the fight when the musicians got mad, and sung for hope and peace… para que igual fuera la Constituyente.

Around 150 musicians from Guayana got together and released a cover of Victor Manuelle’s Que suenen los tambores, under the name of Bolívar está sonando, adapting the lyrics to send a message of national reconciliation. Rather than basking into the harshness of the daily happenings, musicians marched among us, re-awakening the canción protesta.

All these songs, written by people from all sorts of backgrounds, generations and upbringings, reflect the same from different angles. The sociopolitical critiques in music aren’t new to Venezuela; before la Quinta, acts like Alí Primera, Yordano and Desorden Público burst into the mainstream with lyrics that pictured a reality most people brushed off, overusing the phrase “esto en la Cuarta no pasaba”. They denounced poverty, corruption and raging street violence, all of which remain unchanged, if not worsened. While it’s true this country has seen better times, we’ve always had reasons to protest. The big difference is that, in those times, the canción protesta had airplay.

With the rise and consolidation of the Bolivarian Revolution, the number of mainstream protest acts decreased noticeably. Many sold out to the government’s propaganda machine and, ultimately, this became the only way to get played in public media. Things seemed to die down… and then social media happened.

Rappers like Gabylonia released tracks against police and military repression; and with rock’s new wave, came the aforementioned La Vida Bohème, referencing the social and political milestones of our times with tunes like Viernes Negro, Hornos de Cal and Angelitos Negros.

Apache, another rapper born and raised in Caracas, had just one word for us: enough. His new track, Basta, doesn’t mention cities, streets, people or parties. His message is universal, based on his own experiences with violence (“la pluma frente al plomo”, as he puts it), and it’s nothing less than a wake-up call.

Rappers like Gabylonia released tracks against police and military repression; and with rock’s new wave, came the aforementioned La Vida Bohème.

Even pop stars are making statements. Take it from Nacho and Víctor Muñoz, who became icons after a crowd blasted Mi Felicidad over and over since its release in 2015. This year, they got back together for a follow-up not recorded in a studio. The video has been seen over 650 thousand times.

Then there’s the most recent tear-jerker, Valiente, performed by Nacho, Olga Tañón and Luis Enrique in the Tu Mundo Awards last week. It’s almost impossible to watch that and not break down in bitter sadness, despite its uplifting lyrics of being brave and fighting for freedom.

Some may argue that a few songs don’t make a difference, but the fact is, and always has been, that music has huge power as both solace and fuel to keep things anything alive. That’s why Wuilly Arteaga, a seemingly irrelevant violinist that gained international fame when the GNB smashed his instrument, was illegally arrested and tortured.

After his release, he recalled his ordeal and even spoke against a MUD that presented candidates for governor elections. This media exposure, again, was only possible because of the music he played. Other political prisoners, like the forgotten UPEL students in El Dorado, don’t have the privilege of such coverage.

Walking through our soundtrack and the stories that come with it, there’s no doubt that it can only be homemade. So, until something happens that miraculously reignites the protests, we’ll resort to the ultimate ‘no-fucks-given’ hymn: Muerto en Choroní.

May we sing again.

9 COMMENTS

  1. “So, until something happens that miraculously reignites the protests..”
    I am an American. I have no family in Venezuela.
    I have tried to help people that are suffering under this regime in any way that I possibly can.
    I despise tyrants. I believe that personal dignity and individual rights are sacred.
    I can not wrap my head around what appears to be acceptance of this Criminal regime taking complete power, trashing the constitution and installing an illegal government.
    Where are the men in Venezuela?
    Why hasn’t there been a round the clock occupation of the streets combined with an open ended national strike?
    What has happened?
    Are the men that are responsible for the protection of their families such cowards that they are afraid to risk anything?
    Why were schoolchildren leading the protests? Why were women out on the streets.
    Are freedom and democracy, the rule of law and security and the rights of your children to have a future abstract concepts to the men that should be doing everything to oppose this bloody regime?
    If none of these things are worth fighting for, what is?
    Ask yourself, “If not me,who?”, “If not now,when?”

  2. It really is sad that this is what Venezuelas legacy will be… when the going got tough, the entrenched political class folded like a cheap suit.

    There is a vacuum of actual leadership in Venezuela.

  3. Too pessimistic in my view. There was a natural let down because the protesters thought that the demonsrations would block the new constitional assembly and that created expectations that were dashed. Unfortunately we all let our hopes influence our expectations particularly in adverse circumstances. However, nothing has changed. The Chavista dictatorship has to tighten the dictatorship in order ro survive the economic conditions it created. There will be more demonstrations and more international scrutiny but it will take time. The only that gives me pause is whether the Chavistas can hang on longer by a mass exodus of those capable of resistance. If you stick together and dont fracture the democratic forces through recriminations you will see the end of this tyranny. The democratic left and right must work together.

  4. Oh my God. The most pitiful, meaningless piece here in a long time.

    Who gives a shit about music? Seriously…

    John has it right:

    CC wants to wax poetic about meaningless garbage…MUSIC…and doesn’t analyze the cowardly, empty character of the Venezuelan people?

    • “Who gives a shit about music?”
      Practically everybody.

      You seem to be ignoring the critical importance of music in several thousand years of social and military history. When people unite in common cause, they need symbols. The most obvious tribal icon is “the flag”. Warriors have died for their colours throughout history. Music is another type of flag – but more powerful than any scrap of cloth. It unifies groups and gives them identity in a deep emotional way which defies linguistic description. Try insulting a group’s national anthem, and see what the reaction is.

      Every rebel group, and indeed every nationalist group, has developed its own musical identity. Roman armies, Saxon armies, all had their own bards. Most modern armies have military bands. French soldiers cry when they march to the sound of La Marseillaise. Scottish soldiers going into battle in WWII were raised to blood frenzy to the sound of Flower of Scotland on the pipes. The Dying Rebel, one of numerous Irish rebel songs, would bring most hard-bitten IRA supporters to tears. Why is that, do you think? It’s only music.

      In the US in the 1950’s, a number of protest singers were put under surveillance by the FBI. Quite a few were arrested or blacklisted for unAmerican activities. The protest songs of the sixties and early seventies had a massive and easily traceable effect on youth culture, the civil rights movement and the outcome of the Vietnam war – so much so that the authorities funded and promoted a series of songs in an attempt to counter the social tide. The music itself became ANTHEMS for the cause. If you were listening to James Brown, Otis Reading, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin, you were a supporter of the Civil Rights movement. If you were listening to Dylan, The Doors, Paxton and Baez, you were against the Vietnam war.

      Why did a huge number of US people, mostly middle-aged and right-wing, go batshit crazy when they heard Jimmy Hendrix’s version of the Star-spangled Banner? What was that about? It’s only a piece of music for chrissake.

      It is looking increasingly likely that there will be no sudden end to the Venezuelan regime. Venezuela needs its own protest anthems, and I think that this article is highly relevant.
      .

  5. This article was a “clap for credit” example.

    Really? Write a song instead of actually doing something?

    How about using your guitar string to go up behind a few sebin and take their pistols?

    But, if clapping and singing is what you do best, enjoy!!!

  6. “So, until something happens that miraculously reignites the protests,”

    As long as the so-called leadership of the MUD doesn’t say otherwise, people will stay trapped amid their own anti-politics idiocy and selfishness, barking stupid mantras such as “What do you propose then?” and “Go and oust chacismo yourself so you get killed once for all, but shut the fuck up!”

    • I heard that there was no more money to pay the peaceful protesters>Maybe Lillian dropped the ball.Imagine all the people you could pay with that much money to wreak havoc….

Leave a Reply