MANILA, Philippines — The management of rapper Shanti Dope criticized the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) over its call to ban the song "Amatz." The government agency said the song supposedly promoted the use of marijuana, which is illegal in the Philippines.
In a statement posted on the rapper's Facebook page on Thursday, May 23, his management said PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino should listen to the song and not take "a few lines out of context."
"While anyone is welcome to interpret a song or any cultural text, it is also clear that for an interpretation to be valid, it needs to have basis, and must be within the context of the cultural text as a whole," his management said.
Aquino had singled out specific lines from the song including: "Lakas ng amats ko, sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal,” and “Ito hinangad ko lipadin ay mataas pa, sa kaya ipadama sa'yo ng gramo, 'di bale nang musika ikamatay.”
Aquino, a former police general, said the song promotes drug use and is against the government's campaign against illegal drugs.
The music video for "Amatz" was released in late March 2019, or almost 2 months before Aquino called for its ban.
But Shanti Dope's management said that contrary to Aquino's claims, "Amatz" isn't about drugs or marijuana but music – which makes the song's persona "fly."
"By the time we reach the song’s chorus, “amatz” already refers to precisely the music through which the persona found his identity — not any form of drugs, but the natural high of creativity and knowing he is the only one who knows to do what he does. This is what the next verse then focuses on, complete with the ideological anchor of Shanti’s upbringing in Buddhism, with references to concepts such as mahamantra and chakra, as a response in the end to those who think they know the persona, but in fact know little about him."
The music video of the song shows highly stylized elements of Buddhism, with some scenes apparently shot in front of Buddhist temples.
Aside from slamming Aquino's supposed misinterpretation, the rapper's management said that the call for a ban goes beyond Shanti Dope himself.
"This ban sets a dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom in the country, when a drug enforcement agency can unilaterally decide on what a song is about, and call for its complete ban because it is presumed to go against government’s war on illegal drugs," they said.
"This is a brazen use of power, and an affront to our right to think, write, create, and talk freely about the state of the nation."
Aquino earlier said that he has formally written to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM). He also wrote to ABS-CBN and asked them to stop airing the music video. Aquino had apparently first heard the song on ASAP, a Sunday variety show that airs on ABS-CBN.
MTRCB regulates and classifies what programs may be aired on televison, among others. OPM, meanwhile, is the country's leading organization of professional singers.
Aquino said that songs similar to "Amatz" should not be aired and that artists should be more responsible of what they put out in the media. He also said he was open to having a dialogue with Shanti Dope. — Rappler.com