"We do a ‘Freestyle for health’, which is an improvised rap form. We do it through a loudspeaker. We put up banners and turn up the sound, and give practical advice, such as about the importance of vaccines against COVID-19," explained Jheison Arias Serna "J-Bonny," one of the artists participating in the initiative coordinated by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with the support of the Government of Canada.
This year, "J-Bonny" and his colleagues Alexander Hinestroza "Sowl" and Victor Serna "AXL Evan's" have taken their messages and rhythm to 11 municipalities around Chocó, where until February 2023, only 36% of the population was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 —a number far away from the 70% goal set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This northwestern Colombian state, on the border with Panama, has the lowest population density in the country and reduced public infrastructure. Chocó is home to extensive tropical forests, mangroves and fast-flowing rivers, and its communities – mostly Afro-descendants and of Indigenous origins – have suffered decades of armed violence and territorial disputes.
Building on the local popularity of hip-hop, PAHO and partners launched the "Freestyle for Health" in November 2022.
Through a rap contest in Quibdó, the capital of Chocó, a jury chose the three artists, who then embarked on a mission to promote vaccination and other prevention measures among vulnerable populations.
The initiative was implemented with the Dementes Conscientes foundation (the “Conscious Demented” foundation), which uses music to generate opportunities for young people in areas affected by armed violence.
Music chose me, not the other way around," said "AXL Evan's." "The current that flows through me allows me to use music as a transmission tool to enable people to learn, know and feel."