"The role of artists anywhere in the world can be understood as a journalistic task that records realities."
At the beginning of 2020, Colombian rapper Jota Ramos returned to Villa Rica in Colombia after completing Amnesty International’s protection programme for his activism work concerning peace and sustainable agriculture production in Cauca, which allowed him to live abroad in 2019.
According to Ramos, since his arrival to Villa Rica in 2020, the artist has been receiving death threats which forced him to relocate.
In 2018, the rapper received death threats regarding his public denouncement of killings of young people and social leaders in his community and defending the only point of drinking water in a village manipulated by the sugar cane mills.
“[…] For us as young people and African descents in America to have the opportunity to meet other young people and understand other realities that from a distance we did not understand, has made us very happy and wanting to meet other young people to be able to continue the discussions about our experiences and realities through music and strengthen those educational processes that each of us developed through Hip Hop music in our communities,” said Ramos in his speech on UNISON Northern’s exchange program between communities in Colombia and South Africa.
“You don’t have many actions to make a living, and you think about it many times before singing a song with political or social realities again. A death threat means that your days are numbered, and only the aggressor can know when the mission will end,” the rapper told Freemuse.
The artist was previously threatened in 2008 when he led a process of recovering productive lands and farms in the municipality of Villa Rica with the musical group Soporte Klan and the Villa Rica Foundation. The project aimed to prevent Villa Rican families, who still owned the farms, from selling their land to the sugar cane companies.
Ramos is a member of “Haga Que Pase”, the musical group of activists working on programmes defending human rights and promoting peace among young people from Afro-descendant communities and other vulnerable communities in Cauca.
The artist mentions that rap has been a tool used to denounce “the injustices of governments and institutions”.
“This is why these forms of denunciation are delegitimized. […] With our music, we generate a space of encounter with hip-hop and the traditional rhythms of the communities we represent,” Ramos said “The purpose of our songs is to make vulnerable people listen to them and reflect on their realities. We want to contribute to the formation of critical thinking in the new generations.”
According to Ramos, the most crucial and common issues that artists face in Colombia include censorship, institutional discrimination and retaliation from any person or group that feels targeted by artists’ messages.
Jota Ramos is a rapper and social activist, who uses rap as an “instrument of social transformation”, communicating his community’s realities through his songs.
“For me, artistic freedom is the right that we artists have to print in our works, projects or manifestations that we wish to communicate,” the rapper told Freemuse.