Thousands of miles north, past dozens of political borders, two women in Canada are broadcasting the sounds of revolution from the Caribbean, Central, and South America. On their three-year-old podcast Suena a Revolución, Krusheska Quirós and Paola Quirós (no relation) give home to incendiary sounds and create community by highlighting diasporic Latinx artists who are committed to social change.
“The capacity that music has to spread the same message to so many people is so important,” Paola says over the phone. “A person of privilege can listen that song, a person who is struggling can listen to that song, and the message gets to them.”
Although neither would easily label themselves as activists, Suena is truly radical given its commitment to covering a diversity of voices and cultures. Broadcast almost entirely in Spanish and featuring independent musicians from Chile to Guatemala and even South Africa, each episode of Suena features songs by 11 artists. Indie staples such as Ana Tijoux, Calle 13, and La Santa Cecilia are introduced alongside their musical history and put in context within larger justice movements. Their podcast is rebroadcast on terrestrial and internet radio in seven Central and South American countries.
“I really think one thing Suena a Revolución does is it connects all of those countries. [Singer Evelyn] Cornejo may be really well known in Chile, but they might not have heard of her in Ecuador,” says Krusheska. “Having a mix of music from different countries in one episode is one thing that has gotten people to see how the struggles are the same, there are issues that are global, and that it adds to sharing music.”
The final song of the podcast is typically one from outside the diaspora, picked to highlight the struggles and triumphs of people of color around the world. “People talk a lot about self-care and healing, and I think music has that. It’s also giving a lot of people a way to express their despair, their anger, their frustration, their solutions with the systems,” adds Krusheska.
La Revolución is not just for Che
As an ode to the native rights issues often discussed by artists on Suena a Revolución, Krusheska and Paola begin each episode by identifying the indigenous communities who occupied Vancouver as well as the pre-colonial names of their own countries. Boricua Krusheska was born in Puerto Rico and identifies as Afro-Taina, while Paola sees herself as mestiza Latinx from Colombia. Both identify as queer and welcome “todxs, todas y todos” to the podcast.
While Suena began as a gender-diverse collective and continues to have several contributors, it’s since evolved into a space specifically for women, with a regular episodes featuring only women artists, called “Mujeres Revolusonando.” They also interview Latinx activists of all stripes in episodes “El Chaski Llego!” and “Activistas Presente.”
“We don’t think there are enough spaces where self-identified women can share their music and their art,” Paola says. “Yes there are also women that care about revolution, this is not just for guys. It’s not only for Che Guevaras!”
Their shared enthusiasm for musical revolution and feminism has its roots in Facebook, where Krusheska put a call out for her friends’ favorite independent Latinx artists for a playlist. At the time, Krusheska had hoped to create a solo project that would allow her to practice audio editing, but Paola’s extensive music knowledge, journalism degree, and broadcasting background impressed Krusheska. They began working together shortly after, gathering and editing audio interviews on a Zoom H4n recorder at Vancouver Cooperative Radio, in their local library, at Krusheska’s basement apartment, and occasionally in local parks.
Now monthly and available for download, the music and interviews on Suena a Revolución show the gamut of social issues around the world – from police brutality to gender inequality and environmental concerns. The podcast is also a way for Krusheska and Paola to connect with their indigenous roots, build community across international borders, and sow their own seeds as immigrants.
Producing the podcast in Spanish is a key part of connecting with the Latinxs at home and abroad, which allows the two to discuss issues outside their immediate community without othering their listeners.
“We are not living right now in our countries of origin. We are looking at the music and looking at what’s happening over there from different eyes. I think that we are learning a lot through the songs and through the lyrics. It’s very important to us to share that back with [the artists],” Krusheska says.
While Paola and Krusheska have had a lifelong interest in music, Suena has been an educational force in regional music and politics. Both pointed to favorites like the Afro-Colombian group ChocQuibTown, whose music celebrates Afro-Colombian rhythms from the Pacific Coast, such as currulao. The group’s 2009 hit “Oro” is a song about the exploitation of gold.
Podcasts are very new in Latin America, Paola notes, and many radio stations don’t give airtime to independent artists. To share the messages of ChocQuibTown and others, Suena connected with community stations including Hip Hop Radio Puerto Rico, Radio Villa Francia from Chile, Radio Bartolina Sisa in Bolivia, Radio Lucha Libre in Guatemala to rebroadcast the podcast. This multi-national audience has been responsible for much of Suena’s organic growth.
“We are as excited about music as everybody else. Seeing it three years later, it’s very humbling and just so cool! We want to keep building community and sharing knowledge,” Krusheska says.
But for all the love Suena receives south of the Canadian border, the podcast hasn’t made as much contact with local Latinxs. In their next season, Krusheska and Paola plan to highlight Canadian indigenous communities to showcase shared experiences between Central and South Americans and their northern neighbors.
“Some artists who have been featured [on Suena] don’t have lyrics that talk about social justice, but through music and the rhythms that they use, they are fighting against oppression,” Krusheska says, citing beloved Zapotecan rapper Mare Advertencia Lírika, who collaborates with groups that play indigenous son jarocho in addition to her powerful social-justice oriented verses.
“If music didn’t have the strength and importance that it has within social movements, oppressive regimes wouldn’t go into disappearing or silencing artists, or repressing indigenous rhythms or censoring songs,” Krusheska adds.
Independent artists themselves, Paola and Krusheska created Suena as a passion project in addition to their own careers in the nonprofit world. Using open source editing platforms, community resources and a lot of bartering, they hope to make Suena a Revolucion as inclusive as possible and would love to collaborate with international broadcasters to hear more revolutionary sounds. Sharing music and finding strength in common struggle is humanizing, Krusheska says. “We want to contribute to change in the way that we know best while we learn from each other even more ways to fight for change.”
Suena a Revolución represents both the old guard and new wave of social justice activism. By broadcasting powerful messages in song, Paola and Krusheska are part of a decades-old band of audio warriors that includes Native American activists in San Francisco and pirate rock ‘n’ rollers in Britain. Yet bringing together otherwise disparate groups through podcasting and internet radio could only be possible in our digital age, proving that Suena a Revolución is nothing short of revolutionary.
Listen to all of Suena a Revolución’s episodes on their website.