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Nakury Brings Her Transforming Power of Hip-Hop from Costa Rica to America at SXSW


Through the ages and up to our contemporary times, music has united and transformed societies and individuals alike. For Nakury, a Costa Rican rapper, MC, activist, cultural curator, and documentary filmmaker, it has become her mission to fuel change. This spans from the local communities in her native country, to supporting, educating, and mentoring young women in Latin America who are coming into their own through art in its many forms, from music and break dancing, to graffiti and murals. She believes now, more than ever, is the time to move things forward.

“Sometimes life is really tough with us, you know? Everything that’s in the media is very violent,” Nakury said from her home in Costa Rica. “Music is a great transformation tool and is good for healing the soul. For me, doing music is not just doing music but also being able to connect with other people that have great value for our society.”

Having created a career for herself in Latin America, Nakury has become one of the Top 100 Hip-Hop/Rap artists in the country, recently releasing her album, VIA, in 2017. Nakury will be coming to Austin during SXSW to perform at Townsend, Mar 16, 8:00pm and at the Main II, March 17, 8:30pm, sharing her healing and inspiring messages while connecting with fellow hip-hop artists and musicians from around the world.

Growing up in the small town of Turrialba in Central Costa Rica, an area known for its active volcano, having that eruptive energy was part of Nakury’s childhood. At the age of eight her family moved closer to the capital and away from the the close-knit community she held dear. While she felt distant and not as connected as she once did, the streets that surrounded her were filled with art and the expression of the people. In that way, she still felt connected to the people of the city without knowing them personally by seeing how they shared who they were through the art they created.

“I was in love with art,” Nakury explained. “When I was 15 and actually able to get away from my house, I was really attracted to graffiti art.” For many young people, art and music have been their escape, and this was the case for her as well, growing up with a stepfather who was prone to violence and alcoholism. She chose to see that conflict as a gift, getting her to leave the house and find the many facets of her persona through the art she painted on the walls. It was there that she discovered her self-worth, “That I was important. I can do something to change my surroundings. Painting a wall, making other people smile.”

Given the connective tissue that exists between graffiti art, break dancing, and hip-hop, Nakury has embraced all three forms, discovering her evolving talents along the way. In 2010 she was not only participating in the breakdance Battle of the Year in France, she also began producing events from a woman’s perspective, founding the production company UNION BREAK to create one of the biggest hip-hop festivals in Central America.

“I started looking at the competition, the concerts that were mainly men performing. I said, ‘No, this needs to change.’ So we made a radical change.” She’s proud to say that the events thus far have kept their promise of booking at least fifty percent female talent, even within a smaller music industry and market as compared to other countries.

In 2014 Nakury began carving her musical path by producing the mix album, Rima Que Ilumina, which was nominated in “Best Urban Album” for 2016 ACAM Awards. This was followed by Fiesta Familiar, and then in 2017 she partnered with producer, Barzo on VIA.

In line with her societal ethos, Nakury states the respect she has for her audience and thinks deeply about the subjects of her songs, “I can’t write about something I haven’t lived.”

While creating and recording VIA, she approached it as a cultural manager curating an art show tied to a social impact goal. On the song, “Necesario,” the second single released today in support of International Women’s Day, she tapped into her personal experiences of being pressured by the old “get a real job” conformity.

People in her own life felt that the pursuits of a musician, songwriter, and performer were too risky, “I studied at the university and graduated as a journalist. A lot of people told me, ‘Why do you want to have a rock [music] career? You can just have your own profession and get a payment.'” Considering Costa Rica’s smaller market size for music, dedicating yourself to art carries a higher risk versus other areas of the world. This doesn’t phase Nakury in the least, “For me it’s not crazy, it’s a vocation. You’re born with this feeling of expression, to connect ideas of what other people think and make it in one song. For me is not just being a rapper, it’s also be an MC, a master of ceremonies. The ceremonies that we do when we sing, it’s a liberation ceremony.”

This extends to feeling free to share various forms of expression and an independent spirt while also being united and connected to a community. “There’s a lot of things that separate us: gender, how we express ourselves in different situations, the color of our skin. We are told that we need to be so many things in life to be successful. But are we really doing what we feel is right?”


I start up and I fire up this system I don’t understand,
I break the line that crushes me in the end, under control, on the maquila role.
My sunflower skin against a grey backdrop, I’m not just a brink in the wall.
Before being born, expectations are meant to repress, telling you to follow:
The code, the clothing, a gender that segments us.
“Look for a job that pays the bills”,
But it’s the calling that feeds you.
Take your time, experiment. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Look beyond appearances. Be watchful, wild.
I won’t settle for wearing a suit.
They said I wouldn’t last a day and look at all I brought.
You see the formula for success doesn’t exist
And sometimes you achieve the goal only when you persist.
Doing it well is not enough; we have to do it better.
I don’t have a price, but I do have a lot of value.
Doing it well is not enough; we have to do it better.
It’s what I live every day. Do you have what’s necessary?
Various are the problems, but on the contrary,
Why this calendar? I concentrate the energy to
Move on. Light up the fire, light it up.
And be careful who you trust, where your heart beats,
Self love first to distinguish what is achieved with care.
Take it slow, it’s a bolero; even the tallest building starts from zero.
The source is inside: look it in the eyes so no one tells you otherwise.
Learn everything. Like a lotus flower, beauty can emerge from the mud.
Re-emerge, resist, like there’s no escape.
If the test is bitter, the victory is sweeter.
The strategy requires tactic, and each experience gives you practice.
All experiences are unique, break this materialistic logic.
Break the chains, take the trip,
Cross the borders, lose the baggage.
It’s what I live every day. Do you have what’s necessary?
Various are the problems, but on the contrary,
Why this calendar? I concentrate the energy to
Move on. Light up the fire, light it up.

Nakury considers her collaboration with other artists to play a central roll in her musical pursuits, which she did on with Rebeca Lane (Guatemala) and Kumary Sawyers (Costa Rica) on the VIA album. Through her partnership with Barzo on its production, the two aligned on their work ethic, message, and energetic palette. Coming from an electronic music background, Barzo was able to amplify Nakury’s hip-hop foundation.

On “Necessario,” the song opens up with Moog-esque bleeps and then dives deep into the bass as Nakury raps her societal story. The interlude of “Oscuridad” flows in waves like a sound bath, taking your ears and mind to another dimension. Like a starship warming up for take-off to another planet, the intro for “Despierto” rises to meet Nakury’s lyrical story. Last year’s VIA tours have been a success, taking her around the coast in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, in addition to a dozen dates in Mexico.

She keeps this pace while keeping her workshop projects going under UNION BREAK, incorporating them into concerts and festivals, and taking them deep into the barrios and to the people. The topics are geared towards the younger generation, ranging from rap and breakdancing, to more cultural and personal areas of gender equality, sexuality, and how to use alternative medicine.

“But this is all done by using this great tool called hip-hop,” which she says helps to spark discussions between students, honing in on topics that concern them. “For me it’s always been an alternative to violence. I think that happens a lot in our region, in Central America. Hip-hop is really in the barrios with the people. The good thing about this is it has become a tool of a lot of young people all in Central America that choose to do some rap or do some breaking instead of getting in gangs. It’s a very popular movement because it’s with the people. People using this as a tool of expression.”


Nakury shares that this methodology has happened over time by design, because the social component of culture in Central America is strong and is passed on from generation to generation. “It has been our tool to transform ourselves, you know? It was born in the migrant area where there were people with a lot of needs.”

She connects the comparative cultural energy from her native country back to the roots of hip-hop, to the melting pot of the Bronx that had its share of Central American influences. “Hip-hop artists become leaders, not only in Central America but in other parts of the world, including Taiwan, Russia, it’s the social component. It’s important to preserve it.”

Another project on Nakury’s plate moves into the other art area of film to direct the documentary “Somos Guerreras” (We Are Warriors), which is produced by a collective effort with Rebeca Lane once again, and Audry Funk. The plan over the next two to three years is to capture women’s voices and points of view and seeing life from the female lens, from empowerment to gender pay gaps, from overcoming bias and discrimination to self-expression and revolution. This ties back to having the freedom, to say, “This is enough. I want to have an opportunity to make it. That’s what we’re doing in our generation. I feel that we cannot take this legacy down. We have to keep it up and keep working for other girls to have a more equal society.”

Nakury is excited about what they’ve captured thus far. “The good thing is that we have great content,” honing in on their subject’s specific stories in addition to what’s happening in their surroundings, “It talks about the issues from the inside, from the barrios. I think it’s a very important piece.”

The Costa Rican entrepreneur, rapper, and filmmaker is also excited to meet other women in the music industry during her time at SXSW, to attend the music-related sessions and workshops, and to learn perspectives from others about different facets of music and culture.

“I’m going to be eye-opened,” she said, laughing. “I’m super excited. There’s a lot of people from Austin that are saying, ‘We’re excited that you’re going to be here.’ That’s very cool because even though we are far away, there’s a lot of things that we share. We share music and all these messages too. It’s cool to see that we can do these kinds of things, break all the barriers and have fun together too.”

Nakury’s two SXSW showcases are: Townsend, Mar 16, 8:00pm and at the Main II, March 17, 8:30pm.


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