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kunumi-mc-por-klaus-mitteldorf-02 - Kunumí MC Klaus-Mitteldorf

Indigenous rap goes to war in Brazil

Fol­lo­wing in the foots­teps of pio­neers Brô Mc’s, Kunu­mi MC shouts about the anger of the peoples threa­te­ned with geno­cide by Bolsonaro’s politics.

In the video for “Xon­da­ro Ka’a­guy Reguá” (the war­rior from the forest), relea­sed in the spring, Kunumí MC sports the tra­di­tio­nal head­dresses and body paint ins­pi­red by indi­ge­nous tra­di­tions, as well as futu­ris­tic orna­ments and vir­tual rea­li­ty glasses, swap­ping bet­ween Ama­zo­nian land­scapes and the urban jungle of São Pau­lo. Set against Indian flutes and trap basses,  the Gua­ra­ni raps : “There used to be plen­ty of fruit to eat in the forest / But the white man came and des­troyed eve­ry­thing God had crea­ted”. In 2020, the des­truc­tive white man is embo­died by Jair Bol­so­na­ro. Since his inau­gu­ra­tion on 1 Janua­ry 2019, the Bra­zi­lian pre­sident has pur­sued a poli­cy that the indi­ge­nous peoples, and their cham­pions, des­cribe as “geno­cide, eth­no­cide and eco­cide”. Not only does he want their lands to be ope­ned up to the agri­cul­tu­ral indus­try, mining and oil explo­ra­tion, and hydroe­lec­tric dams, his decla­ra­tions give free rein to wild defo­res­ta­tion and the abuses of ille­gal gold­mi­ning – the mur­de­red caciques (chiefs) no lon­ger come into it. Simi­lar­ly, since the health cri­sis explo­ded, he has shown no concern for the fate of these par­ti­cu­lar­ly vul­ne­rable popu­la­tions, of which seve­ral thou­sand mem­bers have contrac­ted Covid-19, with seve­ral hun­dred dying from it.

Kunumí MCXon­da­ro Ka’a­guy Reguá 


Werá Jegua­ka Mirim by his real name, Kunumí MC his only 19 (“kunumí” means “young man” in Gua­ra­ni). He was born and lives in Kru­ku­tu, a com­mu­ni­ty of 250 inha­bi­tants, sur­roun­ded by nature on the fringes of the mega­lo­po­lis São Pau­lo. It was there that he atten­ded school and sha­ped his poli­ti­cal conscious­ness, with the help of his parents – his father Olí­vio Jeku­pé was one of the first indi­ge­nous wri­ters to be publi­shed – and tele­vi­sion, echoing the struggles being waged across the coun­try. As a tee­na­ger, he took on this fight in the middle of the ope­ning cere­mo­ny of the 2014 FIFA World Cup : recrui­ted to release a dove as a sym­bol of peace in the sta­dium, he devia­ted from pro­to­col to dis­play a ban­ner sho­wing the word “Demar­ca­ção” – the demar­ca­tion of the lands of indi­ge­nous peoples, acqui­red in the consti­tu­tion of 1988 and often chal­len­ged, by Bol­so­na­ro in par­ti­cu­lar. “That day I rea­li­sed what my mis­sion would be : figh­ting for my people”, says the young man. But he still had to find a medium : “I chose rap because it’s like poe­try”, he explains, empha­si­sing the pro­found influence of Brô MC’s, Brazil’s first indi­ge­nous rap group – Kunumí MC is the first solo rapper.

Brô MC’s – Reto­ma­da 


For­med in 2009 in Mato Gros­so do Sul, Brô MC’s (from the Gua­ra­ni-Kaiowá people) paved the way for indi­ge­nous rap. Its artists – inclu­ding a strong female repre­sen­ta­tion – cur­rent­ly go by Bri­sa Flow (Mapuche), Katú (Boro­ros), Oz Gua­ra­ni (Gua­ra­ni), Wes­cri­tor (Tupi­nambá de Oli­ven­ça) and Kaê Gua­ja­ja­ra (Gua­ja­ja­ra)… Whe­ther they live in rural areas or in cities, the diver­si­ty of their codes and expres­sions over­turns the ste­reo­types they have been sadd­led with. But they all pro­duce lyrics that are fier­ce­ly com­mit­ted to denoun­cing the glo­ba­li­sed poli­ti­cal, social, eco­no­mic, eco­lo­gi­cal and health crises, from which their com­mu­ni­ties are suf­fe­ring on the front line. They are “war­riors”, a state inherent to the indi­ge­nous condi­tion, accor­ding to Kunumí MC : “We must always fight for our land, for our habi­tats, to pre­serve nature and the pla­net. Today, as in the past, we won’t allow our­selves to be ensla­ved”, he pro­mises, signal­ling back to the ravages of colo­ni­sa­tion : “Bol­so­na­ro is the worst heir to this sto­ry, but it could get even worse if we don’t do any­thing. We need to remem­ber the mili­ta­ry dic­ta­tor­ship (1964–1985) during which many indi­ge­nous and non-indi­ge­nous people were mur­de­red”. 

Bri­sa Flow – Fique Viva


Anoin­ted by the Bra­zi­lian rap star Crio­lo (they recor­ded the duet “Ter­ra, ar, mar”), Kunumí MC believes artists can be a vehicle for this struggle : “Many of our wri­ters and sin­gers are figh­ting to raise the pro­file of our know­ledge and culture. And we also have great lea­ders who struggle relent­less­ly, spea­king at ins­ti­tu­tions and in the mains­tream media, repea­ting that we need help and won’t stop resisting”. 

Katú – Não can­sei


His convic­tion is that new gene­ra­tions are alrea­dy assu­ming this deter­mi­na­tion, through school, an edu­ca­tion centre co-foun­ded by his father, and the oral tra­di­tion of which rap is a modern ver­sion. “Since the 1500s, the indi­ge­nous peoples have suf­fe­red signi­fi­cant vio­lence, mas­sacres and dis­cri­mi­na­tion”, says the young artist with regret. Now we’re drea­ming that things will change, in the future”. The weight of his words and futu­rism of his videos, like the raps relea­sed by Brô MC’s, Bri­sa Flow and Katú, issue a war­ning to Bol­so­na­ro, the indus­tria­lists and coro­na­vi­rus that they’re going to come up against warriors. 


Eric Delhaye


Eric Delhaye

Journalist Eric Delhaye focuses on culture, in general, and music, in particular.
He is interested in the historical, territorial social and political issues these matters encapsulate.
He regularly works with TéléramaLibération and Le Monde Diplomatique.

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