Arts, Culture & Media

La Vida Boheme provides the soundtrack to Venezuela's protest movement

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discoscaracas.com

What began as student protests in Venezuela turned large and violent in the last few weeks. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets all over the country, protesting soaring murder rates, crippling inflation and the scarcity of essential goods. Amidst this turmoil, the music of the Venezuelan rock band La Vida Boheme has surged in popularity, becoming the unofficial soundtrack to the protests.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

The band’s Grammy Award-winning album Será came out nearly a year ago — several weeks after the death of former president Hugo Chávez — and long before the recent protests. Yet the music has struck a chord with Venezuelans now out in the streets. One song in particular, “Aún” (“Still”), has become a sort of anthem for the movement:

Ya cansadas mis piernas de tanto caminar
He dejado la sierra para no volver más
Las rodillas me tiemblan pero no puedo parar
Quiero que mis hijos tengan lo que a mí me quisieron quitar

Now my legs are tired from walking
I have left the mountains to never return again
My knees are trembling but I cannot stop
I want my children to have what they took from me

"A lot of things that are captured in Será is the despair that we are living here, a country that has so many deaths," says lead singer and songwriter Henry D’Arthenay. Over 24,000 violent deaths last year, he says.

"Most of the people that are connecting with Será as an album, they are connecting with that sense that there is something very, very wrong with our country. And it is something that we want to fix. We don't want to grow old in a country where you are afraid all the time to go outside and be kidnapped."

La Vida Boheme has not been immune to the violence. Its manager and tour manager have been kidnapped and its booking agent was murdered. D'Arthenay says nearly everyone in Venezuela has touched by the violence.

"The violence transcends party politics," he says. "And most of the protestors, aside from being angry at the government, drink from the angst of living in such a hostile environment with so many odds against you."

Like many in Caracas, D’Arthenay is staying in his house as much as possible for safety. He has been voicing his opposition to the government’s violence against protesters on Twitter, and working to find hope. “I do believe that this will come to a positive, non-violent outcome. We have to build a country where each and everyone has a chance to realize themselves as human beings.” 

Young Venezuelans have been sharing La Vida Boheme’s lyrics on social media. When messages of inequality and injustice reach the masses via social media, D'Arthenay says, "it makes people feel more a part of the human race and less of one country, one nationality."

This story includes material from "The Soundtrack to Venezuela's Student Protests," which aired on Studio 360, PRI's weekly program on pop culture, design and the arts.

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