It is always easier to criticize than to get involved and one of the criticisms we hear most often at Rising Voices is that helping under-represented communities join the online global conversation will inevitably lead to their westernization. Álvaro Ramírez and Diego Gomez, co-founders of the HiperBarrio project, addressed this question while they were in Austria to pick up their Golden Nica award.
Are these kids getting very Americanized because of the internet? Now they finally have access to it on a daily basis from the library, or from a home connection.
Yes and no. In the group – when we created it – there were already four or five tribes. There were hip-hoppers, punks … and this is music that is not from La Loma, not from Colombia. Cumbia and Merengue and other things are in Colombia. But what happens is that they appropriate. One thing that they do is – the hip-hop that is done in La Loma is in Spanish and it talks about their realities. They adapt it to their needs. It's not the same Americanized version – it's their version of it.
A good example of what is happening on the other hand … is how Cati Restrepo through learning English on LiveMocha has begun to make friends. And she was telling me one night how she has a very good friend in Pakistan now and they talk a lot, and they practice English between the two and actually she is influencing this guy a lot. Because he can not understand that a woman like her is going out so much, is blogging, is not praying all the time … how come she's playing the violin, which is a profane instrument. So actually she is influencing other people. in other areas of the world. And she's getting influenced by him too. He's telling her about Muslim culture about how they pray. So she's learning about this guy too.
So I think that in that sense it's quite interesting because they also are not communicating necessarily with the big stars. Now they are communicating with regular people. I think that in this project especially they have been influenced not just by Americans they now begin to think about India, Dubai, and other cultures that they didn't know existed before. Or they didn't have much reference. With the guys in Voces Bolivianas sometimes. At least they read sometimes Foko Madagascar too. They get a hint of what is going on in Bangladesh. They have heard them singing. We can not understand it, but we think it's beautiful the way they sing in Bangladesh. So, it's both ways. And I think that they decide. They have the possibility to decide much more now. Before with the big television channels and the big enterprises … they were the ones deciding what we had to hear in Colombia in a way. And now the kids have a menu of possibilities and they can choose.