Belona: A New Voice in Chilean Rap

“Human dignity, it is present here / it is felt / it is conscious / it resists.” Belona MC opens her new album, Dignidad Rebelde, with this rhythmic chant, full of hope. A single drum accompanies her words, grounding them in a steady, strong beat, as if pounding them into the earth.

Image courtesy of Belona MC
Image courtesy of Belona MC

The clarity, complexity, and self-assuredness of her music stands out among the crowd, but Belona, a 23-year-old MC from Santiago, is building on a rich and varied tradition of assertively underground hip-hop in Chile. Although a cadre of MCs like Anita Tijoux and Portavoz have already found success in the international scene, others, like Belona, are just taking off. It’s hard to find local rap on the radio in Santiago, but just check out a show and you’ll find Santiago is home to a vibrantly innovative community of hip-hop musicians, dancers, artists, and fans.

Image courtesy of Belona MC
Image courtesy of Belona MC

There’s something unique about the Chilean rap scene: there’s a sense of freedom in it, a celebration of its independence and a spirit of rebellion that feels incredibly fresh, almost optimistic. “The rap world is huge” in Chile, says Belona. “We have huge festivals, really good homemade production, autonomously constructed spaces, collectives moving forward without any municipal support … and I support everything related to this. To making hip-hop independent.”

This independence may make it harder for artists to reach commercial airwaves and get the same type of promotion foreign rock acts get when they pass through Santiago. However, it also allows artists a greater freedom of political expression. MCs like Belona, Tijoux, and Portavoz weave complex political analyses of colonialism and neoliberal economics into their work on top of beats that reference everything from indigenous folk to New York ‘90s-era boom-bap.

Image courtesy of Belona MC
Image courtesy of Belona MC

Belona—now a well-known rapper in Santiago—has been building a rap career since the age of 13, and has watched a new generation of MCs and producers emerge as she developed her own style. According to Belona, the growth of political hip-hop spans Latin America. “To me, it’s like this everywhere,” she says, “not only in Chile but also in Brazil, in Bolivia, in Mexico. People are joining together and organizing themselves to make a change.”

That commitment to “making a change” permeates Belona’s music. In her 2011 song “Alzo Mi Voz,” she defines her work: “I don’t sing just to sing, or to have a pretty voice / even less to entertain the bourgeois / I sing from necessity / from force, from reason / I sing so that my people can be free of oppression.” Images of her rapping are interspersed with images of working-class Santiagüinos going about their lives, showing a side of the city that usually doesn’t make it onto TV.

“My childhood was like that of any other girl from a humble family just trying to keep on going,” Belona says of her past. “On many occasions we’d have to go out to ask for something to eat.” This drives her to make music that challenges the economic system that keeps families like hers in poverty. “It’s just a couple of families that own Chile—nothing more,” she says. “Opportunities to rise up are scarce.”

Image courtesy of Belona MC
Image courtesy of Belona MC

Chile is “clearly a machista country. All the way to the most anti-neoliberal revolutionary leftist, it’s machista,” Belona laughs, ironically, when asked about her position as a female MC. She thinks some things have changed, however: “In past centuries, we were only supposed to be mothers and wives, but today we are mothers, we work at home, we have jobs, we have offices, we enjoy life and make our own decisions. We’re more evolved and more powerful, and that’s a beautiful thing!”

Keep your eyes peeled and ears open for new music coming from Belona: she’s working on a third album and has recently gotten a band together to accompany her work. Until then, check her Facebook Page and website for upcoming shows and watch the music video for “Alzo Mi Voz” below!

Belona MC
https://belonamc.bandpage.com/

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Other articles you might enjoy

No related items were found.

Leave a comment