Calle 13 alum Residente has always used his music to address social injustice, and with this year’s release of his self-titled solo album, that focus has gone global, taking on themes of cultural diaspora, body image, and war. His new video for “Guerra” was shot in a refugee camp on the border of Syria and Lebanon, a backdrop which makes for a devastating clip that implicates first world complacency in the violence that wracks entire regions of the planet.
“Guerra” is the third video that Residente has directed from the album, after the goofy French meet-cute “Desencuentro” and “Somos Anormales,” a NSFW clip that follows the development of humankind. According to Residente, the new clip’s concept focuses on “the arrival of invaders, the people who suffer attacks with their own flesh, the people who resist, fighting to defend themselves from those attacks, the refugees who flee from the war and us, the comfortable ones, who are totally alienated from the harsh reality of war.”
The video tracks a soldier at war, the faces of those affected by Syria’s devastating violence and ensuing displacement (played by both actors and actual refugee camp residents), and climaxes with the eerie smiles of a suburban family, their wealth and health in stark contrast with the video’s other protagonists.
If the subject matter seems heavy for a music video, it’s because “Guerra” has been from its conception an example of art born in conflict. Residente recorded the track with musicians from the Caucasus — Russia, South Ossetia, and Georgia — who are on opposing sides of the violence that has roiled the area. “Guerra,” like the other songs on Residente’s latest album, was created in one of the regions in which the emcee discovered he had heritage, based on a DNA test. He recently traced the steps he took towards making the album in a five-part documentary.