Mozambique’s hip-hop singer and human rights activist Iveth believes music has the power to fight injustice and bring change.
“Music is a universal language. Sometimes you might not understand what the song is saying, but you can feel it,” she said.
So when the Maputo-born artist was asked to write a song to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she came up with a theme that combines rhythm and artistic expression with her trademark socially charged lyrics denouncing oppression and social injustice.
“The one thing I wanted with this song is to make music, music with a lot of rhythm that you can feel inside of you. At the same time, I wanted to reach young people and make them understand the story of human rights and how we got where we are today.”
Iveth, whose real name is Ivete Mafundza Espada, is the author of the rap song “Leave no one behind,” which was released last month on musical platforms.
The song opens with the recording of a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt – who played a leading role on the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 – then traces the history of human rights from the code of Hammurabi and the era of slavery and colonialism in Africa to the feminist and indigenous rights movements and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Iveth is also a lawyer and works for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mozambique. It was her colleague at the Office, Ana Mesquita, who came up with the idea for the song.
Composing and producing the song on short notice caused some stress, she said, and the chorus required several takes, but in the end the song felt perfect.
“I wanted to make people think about the Declaration of Human Rights, how it started, where we are now and what we want for us and for future generations. I want to make people think and understand we’re all equal in dignity and rights.”
A rapper since she was a teenager, Iveth released her first solo single, Rise and be Happy, in 2005. Since then, the award-winning artist has produced several singles and one album “O convite” (The invitation) and collaborated with many hip-hop singers, lending her recognizable husky voice to issues such as feminism and against domestic abuse.
In 2012, Iveth was invited by the U.S. Department of State to participate in a forum on hip-hop and civic engagement organized by the International Visitor Leadership Program, in which she represented Mozambican hip-hop. She has also participated in several campaigns and social causes as a goodwill ambassador.
For Iveth, singing hip-hop and being a lawyer and a human rights activist is one and the same. She said hip-hop has a long legacy of weaving music into protest and demand for change.
“I consider myself someone who was deeply influenced by hip-hop in my way of being. Hip-hop showed me about social justice. When people ask me if I am a rapper or a lawyer and human rights activist, I say I am both. But it was rap that showed me the way.”
“Leave no one behind”, which also features rap artist Hot Blaze, will be part of Iveth’s new album, due for release in 2024.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).