Kali Mutsa and Imaabs’ “Inglis” Is a Searing Dembow Critique of US Cultural Imperialism in Chile

Courtesy of NAAFI

Kali Mutsa is no doubt one of the most complex artists to come out of Chile’s ever-expanding crop of independent creators. Her music draws from history, culture, and her own journey, and as she prepares to launch her latest EP La Devoración, she is giving us a glimpse into this new corner of her universe with the premiere of lead single “Inglis.” The song and EP, created in conjunction with Chilean producer and NAAFI affiliate Imaabs, represents a sonic departure for the high priestess of indie, as she embraces a dembow riddim to tell a political, albeit conceptual, story about cultural imperialism and the delusion of power.

To learn more about what fed her creative process for “Inglis” and La Devoración, we talked to Kali Mutsa about her new record, what’s inspiring her today, and the importance of honoring and embracing your cultural roots.

The last time we spoke you were getting ready to launch your previous EP Mesmer. What have you been up to since then?
Well, I made Mesmer and released it, but the label I was with…It didn’t really work out, so now I’m independent. Except for this record, which I’ll be releasing through NAAFI. I’ve started making music with Imaabs and experimenting; that’s how we got La Devoración. I’ve also been studying script writing and working on new solo Kali Mutsa music, which I would like to release at the end of this year.

How did the Imaabs partnership come about?
We started playing live shows together and he was interested in my music, and I in his, so the idea of collaborating for new music came almost immediately. The first beat he sent my way is what became “Inglis,” and once I heard it, the words poured out of me. Imaabs tells me this is not a reggaeton record, and it’s not, but it’s more urban and aggressive than what I’m used to making. The music is much more violent, so I wanted the lyrics to be more dramatic, like characters that spoke through the songs.

“Inglis” has the tone of a critical parody. What drove you to write this song?
Chilean artists speaking in English – making music that is completely disconnected from their life, their family, their…They all speak in English without speaking English. It’s this aesthetic decision where all these young people perform an idea of relevance, saying, “Yeah, let’s speak in English.” So that makes me feel like all these Milton Friedman followers who decided they wanted to make Chile into a U.S. colony achieved their goal by getting all these 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds – all the way to 30 – who didn’t live through the dictatorship buy into this language and completely forget our roots and history. Chile is seen as boring and colorless, and Anglo culture is seen as cool and artistic. So to me “Inglis” boils down to the chorus: “Let’s speak in English, even though I don’t know how to do.”

What can you tell us about the themes and inspirations behind La Devoración?
I really wanted to speak from a perspective of power, and how ridiculous it can be when you enter circles where humanity becomes worthless and you lose touch with reality. The song “Lady Dragon” is about the life of a dictator’s wife, so I studied Imelda Marcos from the Philippines and Madame Nhu, the actual Dragon Lady, from Vietnam. Trump is also a perfect example. His body is ridiculous. His aesthetic is ridiculous. There is a blindness brought on by power where you can no longer see yourself and all that’s left are the eyes that worship you.

In Chile we had a dictatorship, still alive today, which cast nationwide ignorance so the ruling class could continue to keep us enslaved people. And that’s the ultimate truth. If the people know how to read and talk they will be free. But if you teach them to be robots living to shop, to steal money for the purpose of buying Nikes and Adidas, then you’ll have an army of slaves. We’ve been turned into a sort of gringo colony in the southernmost part of the continent, the farthest from the U.S. and somehow the most gringo in Latin America. We’ve retained our Chilean identity, but it seems to have lost its virtue, its appeal. That’s why the record is called La Devoración, I wanted to broach this idea of being devoured and lost in power and foreign influence.

Kali Mutsa and Imaabs’ La Devoración is out June 30 on NAAFI. Pre-order the EP on iTunes here.