The legacy of an artist is not in the music they make but in the way they can affect the world around them with their music. Following in the footsteps of those before them while merging global sounds and sensibilities, these artists are the torchbearers to a future not withheld by boundaries or conventions.
Ramy Essam (Egypt)
An Egyptian artist who took to Tahrir Square with his music during the Egypt Revolution in 2011, Essam is considered the voice of the revolution. Speaking for his people, his song ‘Irhal’ urged former president Hosni Mubarak to resign and was the song that left thousands’ lips as they fought against an oppressive regime. Although his songs have since been banned from being played in Egypt, Ramy continues to make music and tour across the world while spreading his message as an ambassador of the Egyptian revolution.
MC Abdul (Palestine)
An artist born in the age of the internet, now 16-year old Abdel-Rahman Al-Shantti (or MC Abdul) gained popularity when a video of him delivering freestyle raps outside his school in Gaza was met with acclaim all around the world. Speaking from personal experiences of a war torn Gaza, he doesn’t shy away from the truth and how it impacts those that are young – be it him, his classmates, or his siblings.
Hamada Ben Amor “El General” (Tunisia)
A career that chronicles the political environment of Tunisia through rap is how El General’s music can be best described. However, nearly his entire discography was kept underground by the strict censorship of the autocratic regime of the Tunisian government. That didn’t stop him from having his song “Rais Lebled” being used as the anthem for the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.
Vivir Quintana (Mexico)
Coming from a musical family, it’s no surprise that Quintana’s medium of expression would extend to her guitar and voice. She penned the song “Canción sin miedo” (”Song without Fear”), which has become a feminist hymn against gendered violence and femicide and continues to write corridos that demand justice from the aggressors of violence.
Calle 13 (Puerto Rico)
Noted for their eclectic musical style, satirical and sarcastic lyrics, as well as social commentary about Latin American issues, Calle 13 is Puerto Rico’s answer to alternative hip-hop. Having won Grammies for their work and taking their abrasive music to a global audience hasn’t stopped them from speaking about education in the country or the rights of the indigenous people.
MC Kash (India)
Growing up in land-locked and politically tense environments aren’t always conducive to creating art but for Roushan Illahi, it was his way of sharing his story with the world. Borrowing his moniker from the place that raised him, MC Kash belongs to a generation of Kashmiris that grew up under the shadow of guns, whose childhood memories are that of war raging in the streets. Penning anthems of dissent, his voice is one of the most prominent when it comes to protest music in South Asia.
Although new to the music industry, Arivu is no alien to the music that runs through his veins. With access to television and radio being non-existent during his childhood, he was exposed to music through the folk songs of his ancestors sang by his family. Discovering poetry early in his life led to his lyrics taking on a nuanced style, setting him apart from his contemporaries in the playback and independent hiphop spaces.
Based on their perspective of growing up as Malaysian men and the lyrics were a product of their observations of their surroundings, Terrer gained notoriety for their take on toxic masculinity through their song “Hang Loklaq”. The group’s creation was inspired by the country’s 14th general election, where history was made with a change in government after 60 years of a ruling coalition that sought to repress the voices of their people.
Words by: Abheet Anand