The philosophy employed by CuzCo is one that they adopted from Brazil, where it’s been recognised that socially disadvantaged students require a more personal approach, writes Ryan Butler. But CuzCo have taken it a step further again however, aiming to eliminate the formality that can characterise student/teacher relationships by having both parties play each the role in turn.
Who are CuzCo?
They are Wire MC, who is a descendant of the Gumbayngirri nation (on the north east coast of New South Wales) with an Aboriginal conscience that acknowledges all First Nations across Australia. Wire MC sees hip-hop as the “modern day corroboree” for young Indigenous Australians, looking for a way to express themselves and their culture in a positive way, and Choo Choo. He is a hip-hop artist and rapper, born in Argentina and raised in Australia, who works and performs nationally and internationally with young people from many different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, showcasing his socially conscious lyrics.
Kids teach them about their life experiences, and only then do Cuzco take the reins and apply an appropriate strategy tailor-made for the individual. Most of their projects are small, though the most rewarding and effective, they say, are the ones that occur over an extended period, usually because it takes time for some individuals to open up.
What makes the Cuzco method so unique, and arguably more effective, is the love they share for hip-hop music. This they claim “speeds up the learning process”. The beauty of the idea of is that kids are encouraged not only to use words, and to be creative with them, it also teaches kids about their own subjective power and potential. CuzCo are well aware of the negative connotations that surround hip-hop and rap music, and they take issue on this point. It is important to recognise that “Gangsta Rap” comes from LA, and that the subject matter is commonly unique to its own origin. This brings us to the apparent advantages of the medium, which are that it has an immediacy that allows for easy expression of truth, and the consequence of this is that kids develop an increased awareness and an aptitude for questioning their own surroundings. It also celebrates hopes and dreams, giving them the knowledge that their opportunities really are limitless.
After a difficult beginning CuzCo have enjoyed great success in their labours, achieving significant and satisfying results and becoming respected internationally along the way. While most of the work is conducted in Australian communities, where they can identify a market and a need, they have also worked in South America, most notably Argentina.
CuzCo gave us a demo in the second half of the session, whipping kids and adults alike into a groove which not only sounded great but had kids making up the words.
* Ryan Butler, from Murwillumbah, is a journalism and creative writing student at Griffith University.