Up and coming rapper from Burundi, Olegue Baraka, has been arrested after publishing a video promoting an upcoming concert of his. The charges are “public contempt of good morals”.
The video depicts Olegue dressed as a Catholic prelate and a young woman dressed as a nun, shaking her behind, as one does when having fun.
This did not sit well with the Catholic organisation in the country, of which the President is a devout member.
Burundi is a landlocked, extremely poor country in East Africa and it’s not exactly famous for nurturing free speech. But whether it is in poor Burundi or wealthy Spain, rappers face the same hardships: say the ‘wrong thing’, upset the crown or cross and you get arrested.
Patria o muerte (translated homeland or death) is a saying that was born in communist, revolutionary times in Cuba. For over six decades, the authoritarian regime on this Caribbean island has held a firm hand over its citizens which has resulted in many people looking to other countries for a more positive life or being exiled for their words or actions.
Many artists have faced severe oppression by the regime in recent years but that does not stop them from using their voices and talents to try to bring attention to the tyranny their people face on a daily basis.
Since its release in February, the rap song Patria y Vida, has accumulated over 9 million views on YouTube and become somewhat of an anthem for people in Cuba and all over Latin America. The rap hit was recorded in Miami (the home to an enormous exiled Cuban population), by a group of artists, some of whom are currently living in exile.
The song title is a more positive take on the before mention saying and part of its lyrics read: “We are artists, we are sensitivity/The true story, not the wrong one/We are the dignity of a whole people trampled on/At gunpoint and with words that are still nothing”.
The song has helped motivate the Cuban people to stand up and raise their voices for a more equal and just society. In an unprecedented event in July this year, great masses of people took to the streets in protest, an collective act that was not possible in past years.
The song also pays tribute to the San Isidro movement, a response to state censorship of artistic works: “They broke our door/they violated our temple/and the world is aware that the San Isidro Movement is still in position”. The current president has called this movement (as well as the rap song) unpatriotic and for it to be crushed.
Now, as fuel to protest fire, Patria y Vida has been nominated for a Latin Grammy award, an achievement that is sure to help keep the torch of protest going for some time (Update: on Thursday night the song won Song of the Year at the Latin Grammy Awards!).
In Turkey, rapper Şehinşah was recently detained by local authorities for allegedly insulting the president in two of his songs. Şehinşah wrote on his Twitter account: “On my way home, I was detained at the airport for insulting the President. I am in detention again.”
In another tweet Şehinşah describes his frustration over these continuous detentions and promises to soon release a protest song.
According to the State of Artistic Freedom 2021, published by Freemuse, several artists have been oppressed and attacked by Turkish authorities and “experienced legal prosecution under Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (Insulting the President of the Republic) and also the 1991 Anti-Terror Law (no. 3713/TMK). Both laws have been used to legitimise state repression against opposing ideas and individuals.”