One of last year’s most powerful (and underrated) releases was Nafada, the latest album by Detroit-based electronic/industrial outfit Konqistador. Nafada is a remarkable release which saw Konqistador’s trio collaborate with some of the leading female hip-hop artists from Africa and the Middle East. The result was a deliciously defiant album with immense crossover appeal; an astonishingly successful balance of irrepressibly beat-driven lyricism and provocative politics that sacrifices neither the ardency of its message nor the vitality of the music which carries it.
The album keeps giving: last week Konqistador premiered the latest music video stemming from these adroit collaborations. “Visaya” features Toronto-based Filipina-Canadian hip-hop artist HanHan rapping in Cebuano – one of the dozens of languages spoken in the Philippines — interspersed with appearances from Konqistador’s Elizabeth Graham singing a chorus in French.
The video’s dark ambience is redolent of Konqistador’s darkwave, industrial roots. But it’s augmented by the defiant hip-hop attitude HanHan brings to the piece: bold, brick-backdropped urbanism daringly counterpoised against visual motifs of tradition and identity. The talented HanHan – who works as a cardiac operating room nurse by day – has been busy; she dropped her second full-length album Urduja in January of this year.
HanHan’s performance in the video is sublime. She exudes a sense of pride and confidence that complements the song’s lyrical duality: “Solid with beautiful hearts / We are nice / Every muscle in my body is soft and kindhearted / But….If you cross us / We will stand for our rights / We fight the wicked, the crocodiles of society…”
The title is a reference to the Visaya region of the Philippines, and while the song celebrates the region’s diversity it’s ultimately a call to recognize the unifying force of our common humanity, rather than succumb to the divisiveness of oppositional faiths and belief systems. It fits neatly into the broader theme of the Nafada project. The album was conceived as a celebration of women’s courage in fighting for change around the world, as well as a rebuke against the rise of anti-Muslim politics in the United States and elsewhere. The album’s collaborators include Medusa Tn (Tunisia), Soultana (Morocco), Salome MC (Iran), Meryam Saci (Algeria), Miss Undastood (USA), Sultana (Turkey), and HanHan (Philippines).
The “Visaya” video, launched on 10 September at Urban Kingdom’s Generation Worldwide festival, is the fourth video to emerge from Nafada. It’s a fitting exemplar for a superb album that offers vital and inspired listening for these difficult times.