Guilty Optics – ‘The Kayapo Ghosts’ – The Story of the Song

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guilty optics kayapo chosts

A couple of weeks ago I came across a track by Dublin trio Guilty Optics. The track, named ‘The Kayapo Ghosts’ and streaming above, is nearly three minutes of angular, pummeling melodic post hardcore in the vein of San Diego’s legendary DIY scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Guitars drill through their riffs with a wanton urgency that is mirrored in the pounding drums while tenacious and persistant vocals bellow over the top. Sporting a lo-fi vibe that is akin to early At The Drive-In, the track is a confident and perfect introduction to this new outfit from the capital.

After a few listens, I noticed the track is called ‘The Kayapo Ghosts’. I had no idea who or what the Kayapo were/are. Normally at this point I’d do a bit of Googling but instead I opted to go straight to the source. Al Finnerty, guitar and voalist with Guilty Optics, was wonderfully gracious enough to explain to me who exactly the Kayapo are and their influence on the song. Fascinating stuff.

Guilty Optics: Like a lot of Guilty Optics songs the music for ‘The Kayapo Ghosts’ written and finished some time before I put words to it.

I think it was perhaps through an on-line awareness campaign I first heard about the Kayapo tribe and their plight but through some more reading and research I discovered just how the fight to save their lands should be a concern for us all. The Kayapo tribe are an indigenous tribe that live on the Xingu river in the amazon rain forest, they live by Hunting in the forest and fishing the river but have a great respect for the land they use.

In the last few decades their way of living has been under threat due to mining and logging with companies destroying their land and way of life, in some cases small tribes they have been compensated by the companies financially but this does not replace their land, food sources or way of life. Nor does it stop the pollution of the river or destruction of the environment.

In some cases the tribes have taken up arms to protect their lands from the logging and mining companies by stopping workers coming in and destroying their land.

guilty optics the kayapo ghosts
Members of the Kayapo tribe in traditional dress.

As if they hadn’t enough troubles a number of years ago the Brazilian government gave approval to build a huge hydroelectric dam (the third largest in the world) along the river, the dam will flood 400,000 hectares of forest. More than 40,000 people will be forced from their lands. The proposed “Belo Monte” Dam project would also destroy the natural resources essential to the survival and livelihood of the Kayapo tribe and would severely damage fishing conditions.

This destruction of the natural habitat and deforestation will also cause the disappearance of many species.

The Kayapo people continue to fight against the construction. Government corruption continues to curtail the resistance efforts of the indigenous tribes and opposition forces. Kayapo leaders protesting the dam are constantly threatened, and some have been killed by developers and land prospectors. These crimes are often not prosecuted.

The concern for us is on both an environmental level and a social justice level, government corruption and the use of peoples natural resources for the benefit and profit of a few does not only exist for the Kayapo but all of us.

I am often inspired to write about politics, greed and the problems with capitalism, sometimes it’s on a more local level I get the inspiration but often they are global issues and this was one that to me summed up a lot of what’s wrong with the world in which we live.

It’s almost like looking back in time and seeing how a lot of our problems began, with greed and the use of our natural landscape and resources for profit and not just survival.

The lyrics try to deal with the deforestation of the amazon in the name of progress and despite the value to the environment of the rain forest how the land or lives of the people living there are of less importance than profits. It also shows how governments will side with big business over the people they are supposed to represent and protect and even in some cases are willing to almost erase their existence.

The last half of the song suggests the ghosts of this tribe will haunt us in the future this is simply a metaphor suggesting the world will eventually pay the price for greed, neglect and the mistakes of the past.

The theme of the lyrics seemed to fit well with the short abrasive song in the end!

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