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Frekuensia Kolombiana cover photo

Frekuensia Kolombiana 2006


Distributed by H2O Newsreel, 545 Eighth Avenue, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10018; 212-947-9277
Produced by Intermundos and Further Productions
Directed by Vanessa Gocksch
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Music, Hip Hop Music, Poetry, Dance, Art, South American Studies, Popular Culture, Sociology, Human Rights

Date Entered: 03/08/2010

Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

What role can popular music play in the struggle against oppression? In Frekuensia Kolombiana hip-hop artists use MC-ing, breakdancing, graffiti and DJ-ing as means to confront the injustices of life in Colombia’s ghettos.

Frekuensia opens with a jolting ride through gritty urban streets, shot from inside a car. As we descend into the city, running text from the U.S. State Department warns us that, in Colombia, something as everyday as boarding a city bus can be fraught with danger. Poverty, narco-terrorism, kidnapping, extortion, political corruption—these are everyday for many living in Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla or Cali.

But the couple in the taxi with us is talking music, particularly Colombian folk music and its influence on the country’s unique style of hip-hop. Through interviews with musicians and people on the street, we learn that for many years Vallenato, Cumbia and other forms of improvisatory folk music have given a voice to the voiceless in Colombia.

Today, with no support from their country’s music industry and with frequent harassment from the military police, (at one point, a heavily-armed officer on the streets of Bogota interrupts film crew and artists, demanding to know what they’re doing), hip-hop artists are voicing the frustrations of yet another generation plagued by poverty, crime and corruption.

We witness performances on street corners and in underground clubs, sit in on youth programs teaching rap, graffiti art, DJ-ing and Hip-hop dance in community centers. Colombian radio stations refuse to air locally-produced hip-hop, so we watch artists produce and market recordings with the slimmest of resources. And as Por Razones de Estado encourages us to continue resisting government oppression even as police arrive to disrupt their street-fair performance, we slip uneasily to the back of the crowd.

Ms Gocksch shot Frekuensia in Betacam format; occasional less-than-optimal lighting, framing or sound is understandable, given her subject. There’s one instance of foul language: authorities arresting a person filming at a protest tell him to “get that f***ing tape out.” The English subtitles need a sort of homonym/spell-check: threw and through, it’s and its, loose and lose, were and we’re are confused in several places (at least in the preview copy I reviewed).

Frekuensia Kolombiana testifies to an amazing group of youthful artist/activists constructing “from exclusion a movement of hope and truth.”