Angola-based producer Nazar, who is known for his politically charged work, premiered a video on THUMP today for "Mount Sumi (Interlude)," off his NIHIL 2: Hubris EP. The artist, who only wants to be identified as Nazar Simões, described the video to THUMP as an "offensive" against state censorship. Simoes' enlisted the help of director Lane Stewart, who has previously worked with Drake's OVO, Houston experimentalist Rabit, and Jaden Smith, to produce the short but powerful exploration of a little known piece of Angolan history.
The specific subject of the video is contained in its title: the Mount Sumi massacre on April 16, 2015, where more than 1,000 members of the Christian sect Seventh Day in the Light of the World were "mown down indiscriminately" by state police and defense forces, according to the Angolan opposition party UNITA and human rights activists. The government, on the other hand, claims that only 13 "snipers" were killed in the confrontation, and has used the state-controlled media to disseminate their account (other sources cite 22 people as their official death toll). President José Eduardo dos Santos has called the sect "a threat to peace and to national unity."
The video contains footage of the sect gathered from independent and international media sources, and works to provide an alternate account of the group in the face of what Nazar calls the government's "propagandist" version.
Nazar described The NIHIL 2 EP to THUMP as "a documentary take on the consciousness of the Angolan people," and is in a style he calls "Rough Kuduro," a variation on a genre of music that has existed in Angola since the 80s. "I created it and called it Rough Kuduro, because I couldn't satisfy my frustrations and what I'd see on daily basis," he explains. "There wasn't a music genre that could truly translate that uglier side. And the existing Kuduro was too upbeat."
It is the second entry in the NIHIL trilogy, the first part of which was released in 2014 on UK-based label Generation Bass.
Watch the video for "Mount Sumi (Interlude)" above, pick up your copy via NY/LA/Dallas-based label Track Meet here, and afterward read an essay Simoes penned for THUMP about the piece and how it relates to his larger body of work:
The act of protest represented in this EP is my noisy opposition against how the country has been clumsily handled, where state-censorship, secretism, nepotism, and corruption strive. Why noisy? Because it's the only way one can get his message across. Peaceful protests that aren't in favor of the Regime are strictly not allowed even though our constitution points out—explicitly—that permission isn't needed, only a previous notification. But when they do happen, they are violently repressed by the police, and hijacked by what I'd call 'state-sponsored hooligans' whose only purpose is to intimidate, and beat, in total impunity.
After having witnessed such occurrences with my own eyes and been told of [similar ones] by others, making my EP more political made sense. Since people can't really criticize on the streets they do it on the internet, and artists like me and many others do it with art.
The video of the song "Mount Sumi" is a direct response to how the Regime tried to portray the people involved in that silenced massacre via its propagandist state media — the only kind allowed to be broadcast, sold, and watched in every part of the country. There's been a war of image going on since the civil war. So this video comes out as an offensive against that state censorship.
The footage used includes recordings of religious masses, sessions of baptism, and music videos of The Light of the World sect. I wanted to use them to bring light to the human and positive side of those gatherings: that entire families participated, and that they were in no wrong in doing it so. Religions in Angola are mostly under the umbrella of the Regime, used as tool of propaganda. The Light of the World certainly got targeted because its leader wasn't under that umbrella anymore.
The Regime only confirmed 22 deaths [at the massacre], but never let an independent organization see the area. There have been innumerous anonymous claims that victims were burnt and hidden. The area now is a military base. Maybe we'll never know what has happened there. But what we know for [sure] is, that many families that had relatives in that sect haven't seen them back yet.
None of this footage was broadcasted first in the country by [the state] media. It mainly appeared on the internet, (on YouTube and Facebook via independent e-journals, which are reasons why our president had announced that social networks shall be tightly controlled for our "safety"), and international medias.
I set this EP as a description of the state of our society. How the establishment tries to put us all asleep, anesthetizing us with cheap alcoholic beverages (the famous "Cuca", a beer cheaper than bottled water in a country the lacks it), with unchallenging education (a sector were quantity is prioritized over quality and where corruption also prospers.)
It documents, from my point of view, the Regime repression—in the songs "Mount Sumi" and "Tyranny" (a song where I purposely embraced the character of someone that benefits from the lack of democracy in the country and that fanatically praises our repressive leaders)—and the last track, "Oligarch's Son," a more personal take on the people whose luxurious lives are indirectly linked to the disgrace of the rest of the population. Having had the privilege of being the son of career politician, I have been close enough to know how those people live. In a way, the melodic yet distorted posture of this track represents that opulence and distorted reality amongst the elite.
These literal examples and particularities of this society are essentially what make the EP a documentary take on Angola. Obviously, one documentary can't treat everything, it would take more EPs, and other mediums.
This EP is correlated with two others, that, after the realization of the third one, will make a trilogy: a work that touches the many painful periods that made Angola what it is today.
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