Amid the most crucial political crisis to hit Puerto Rico in its modern history, three Puerto Rican musicians have released a protest song that is spreading across the island as fast as news of the next demonstration against the local government.
“Afilando Los Cuchillos” (“Sharpening The Knives”) was released on July 17 on YouTube by Residente from the iconic band Calle 13 featuring Benito Martinez Ocasio, the real name of Puerto Rican hip-hop star Bad Bunny as well as Ieana Cabra Joglar, who records as iLe and is the younger sister of Residente.
As if creating a soundtrack to a resist movement in real time the musicians drew on a history of corruption and abuse on the island for inspiration as well as the intense fury building up in demonstrations this week.
“We’re basically telling a story as if we were a newspaper but even better. More open, more direct and more raw,” said Ileana Cabra Joglar in an interview from her home on the island. “What we are saying is what we are seeing in the streets. We are telling a story of the moment we are in right now,” iLe says.
The song is a blistering, expletive-laden take down of Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his administration delivered with the fury and energy that is fueling the massive demonstrations that have been taking place in the capital city of San Juan in response to leaked text messages between Rosello and others in his administration. According to NPR’s Adrian Florido, the thread of the text conversations, which were published by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico on July 13, contain evidence of homophobic, derogatory and misogynistic slurs as well as jokes about the dead bodies that were collected at a government facility before and after Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
“Vamos cortantes, como los cuchillos / Sacando chispa hasta llegar al filo / Hay que arrancar la maleza del plantío / Pa que ninguno se aproveche de lo mío,” iLe sings during the emblazoned chorus. “We are sharp, like knives / Sparkling up to the edge / Weed must be removed from the plantation / So that none of them take advantage of what is mine.”
Perez Joglar says the knife in the title is a metaphor to be used to cut through systemic corruption on the island.
“It’s a very transcending moment for us here on the island,” says Perez Joglar. “I think I have been waiting for this for a long time… I feel that Puerto Ricans are waking up and i think that is something that we needed a long time ago. For me its very necessary that anger we have been accumulating for so long … is expressed in the song and i’m glad people are reacting to it.”
The demonstrations have disrupted life on the island and even caused Bad Bunny to put his European tour on hold in order to fly back to Puerto Rico to join the protests.
According to Ileana Cabra Joglar, or iLe, Bad Bunny recorded his part of the track upon is return yesterday while Residente recorded his in New York before he arranged for a flight back to Puerto Rico this morning. She recorded her chorus yesterday as well after discussing the themes and some of the lyrics with her brother. She says they all had to push themselves to get the track done.
“it’s been crazy but there is very much adrenaline at the same time. Sometimes when you’re angry you get out your best work!”