MANILA -- Hip hop duo Kartel has dropped their first ever album, "Kontrapunto" (Uprising Records) just this past May.
This is Uprising Records’ first online album launch given they were unable to have physical copies pressed via compact disc during the lockdown.
Kartel previously collaborated with Lion and the Scouts on a beautiful meld of rap and reggae with the song “Pag-asa, Pag-ibig, Paglaya” back in 2014 (that came out in the excellent and independently released "Pagsibol" album).
Six years later and a whole lot of beef and social issues to rap about, Kartel has given us much for thought in this time of pandemic with "Kontrapunto."
It is exactly that – a counterpoint. Kartel asks you to look take a long and hard look at the traditional systems from the government to the educational system to even organized religion that they believe hold people bondage. That people are so stuck in this cycle that they cannot break out and while some may do well; others don’t and are trapped in the rat race and are forever down there.
That is, unless they open their eyes and free themselves.
As we review Kartel’s "Kontrapunto," it comes at a telling time when there are massive and dangerous riots that followed in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and people are questioning the injustices of existing systems.
And Kartel’s point of view can be incendiary.
The album starts off with the brooding “Anino” where Ilaya and Tala (the two dudes who comprise Kartel) rap about one’s self-doubts and breaking out of that mindset.
Now freed from those self-doubts and shadow boxing with one’s conscience that keeps one on hold, they unleash their zingers across the album.
Kartel offs a change of pace with the jazzier “Pera Pera” without sacrificing on the pointed barbs towards those who would use politics and religion to make money.
“Bilanggo” steps up the attack on organized religion and how the educational system makes slaves of those unable to cope
“Alamat” has this old-style flamenco/kundiman guitar to open perhaps the angriest song on the album. They wonder about the efforts and blood sacrifices made by our ancestors and if they have been for naught. And maybe, it is time to rise up and change these systems.
On “Sa Likod ng Lapis,” Kartel brings on board DJ Nicko whose turntable scratches add an edge to Kartel’s questioning the failed promises of the electoral vote.
The themes recur throughout the 10 other tracks of the album as Kartel gets by with a little help from some friends up and down Uprising Records’ roster (Supreme Fist, DJ Antsdru, Apoc, Diday, Octo Del, KJah, Sayyad, DJ Arthug, Kregga, Bigote, and Kemikal Ali).
With so much happening on the domestic front and all over the world, albums like Kartel’s Kontrapunto -- angry and pointed – are proof positive that people are clamoring for real and the good kind of change.
Fans may purchase Kartel’s "Kontrapunto" on their Bandcamp page.