The world is closer than ever before. Despite news of division, war, conflicting opinions - we are far more impacted and influenced by those half the way across the world than ever before. Why? The internet and the proliferation of media. Besides the multitude of advantages, it has had a pervasive homogenising effect on culture - pulling everyone into a sterile sameness. Vado, a Creole rapper from Portugal, is fighting back.
It would’ve been easy enough to rap in English if he chose. It would be even easier to rap in Portuguese. The first would grant him access to most of the world’s markets. The latter, thanks to Portugal and Brazil’s combined populations and diaspora, equate to around 270 million speakers. Instead, Vado, of Mas Ki Ás, chose to write and rap in his native tongue of Creole. For comparison, there are only around 870,000 native kriolu speakers of Cape Verdean descent.
Still, Vado stayed true to his roots, to his people and it has, undoubtedly, paid off. Racking up around 6+ million views on a few of his videos - his choice to stand up against the rising tide of cultural conformity and globalisation makes him a figurehead in his own community, as well as a symbol to others around the world.
When the European Union chose to create a unified state, taking away each country’s currency, they created one big marketplace, easier for their American dad and Chinese mum to broker deals. Never has it been more important to resist. We are told the cultural war is about people’s pronouns and what bathroom they use. This is merely an aside - a media-fuelled smoke-and-mirror to divert from the much larger issues at hand - continued poverty, unemployment, corruption and unrepresentative political system at large.
Vado’s lyrics are harsh. They’re aggressive, unpalatable and, for many, too uncomfortable to listen. Yet, nobody else will represent the people he has. Those that speak a language few understand, not that they’d be listened to anyway. Vado and Mas Ki Ás have removed that choice. Now, there’s nowhere for people to turn. Their voice becomes amplified by the internet - the very tool that could’ve harmed their growth - and has pushed the plight of highly impoverished Cape Verdeans (and others, like Mozambique and Angola) into public consciousness.
For him, it's a victory. There were zero expectations growing up. Things like higher education, or success of any kind, was a dream that, when verablised, many others would laugh at. Instead of laughing, or withering at the prospect, Vado pushed himself to grow into his dreams, to place himself amongst the best and to stand out for his clear ability to articulate the restlessness and unrest of growing up in Lisbon's impoverished outskirts. It's without hyperbole that every single day could be seen as a fight.
Now he has embodied that vision, become a tangible form of success, a notion that nobody has to laugh away anymore. They see it with their eyes. His bairro still means a lot to him. That's never changed. The work he does always represents the place - not with rose-tinted goggles, but its realities, by shining a light on what life is like there. His path has blazed a trail, one that others, he hopes, will be able to follow.
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