Music has an uncanny ability to engage our emotions in ways that impact our behavior. Its influence is often subtle and sub-conscious; it can make us happy, excited, anxious, relaxed, somber, and sad, all without us fully realizing it. In fact, we can all probably think of a song whose melody and lyrics have as much as changed our worldview.
Music’s impact is, indeed, pretty remarkable, and it suggests that musicians have a unique opportunity to effectively foster ideas, values, and actions that are socially responsible.
The 10th Annual Latin Grammy Awards take place tonight, and one “Best New Artist” nominee exemplifies the socially conscious and responsible approach to musicianship.
ChocQuibTown, a Colombian group that somewhat defies traditional categorization (they represent a blend of hip-hop, funk, salsa, and traditional Afro-Colombian sounds), has made it their mission to increase the visibility of Colombia’s Pacific Coast – its people, its unique and rich culture and traditions, as well as its problems.
El Chocó, the state from which the group and its name proceed, is the poorest and perhaps most neglected in Colombia, and its residents, primarily Afro-Colombians, have been largely excluded from the country’s self-image. Whether out of denial or the forgetfulness that accompanies marginalization, the “Afro” side of Colombia has been an afterthought, a parentheses, in the national discourse.
ChocQuibTown, with incredible grace and thoughtfulness, has set out to change all that. Through their music, they’ve striven to make El Chocó a proud part of what the world envisions when it thinks of Colombia. And they are succeeding.
The sounds of the Colombian Pacific have taken the nation by storm, and Afro-Colombian hip-hop, best represented by ChocQuibTown, has become a musical phenomenon. The fever is spreading outside of Colombia, as well, as demonstrated by CQT’s recent tour through India and Europe and their Latin Grammy nomination. (Watch their fantastic EPK on YouTube for more.)
But ChocQuibTown’s aim is not simply visibility for El Chocó. The group is deeply committed to the betterment of the region, as evidenced by their actions in the realm of social responsibility. They are, for example, using their status as rising stars and role models to improve health and stem the spread of preventable diseases, in collaboration with the Colombian government (see the public service announcement above).
All in all, they are an outstanding example of social entrepreneurship at work.
So if you watch the Latin Grammy Awards tonight on Univision, cheer for ChocQuibTown. Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water.