Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, J Balvin is one of the biggest-selling Latin artists in the world

Colombian star J Balvin has apologised for his recent music video, Perra, a week after it was removed from YouTube.

Released in September, the video showed Balvin walking two black women on leashes while other black actors were made up to look like dogs.

Dominican rapper Tokischa, who features on the song, also performed a scene on all fours inside a doghouse.

"I want to say sorry to whomever felt offended, especially to the black community," Balvin said on Instagram.

"That's not who I am. I'm about tolerance, love and inclusivity.

"I also like to support new artists, in this case Tokischa, a woman who supports her people, her community and also empowers women."

[email protected] apologizes for the video of "Perra" with #Tokischa. “My message has always been tolerance, love and integration,” he adds.

— billboard latin (@billboardlatin) October 24, 2021
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Balvin, 36, is one of the biggest artists in Latin music, with global sales of more than 35 million records. In the UK, he has scored two top 10 hits – 2017's Mi Gente, which featured a guest verse from Beyoncé, and his 2018 Cardi B collaboration I Like It.

Perra is taken from the star's sixth studio album, José – a 24-track opus which mixes his colourful, chart-friendly reggaeton with more intimate musings about his upbringing and mental health issues.

The single, whose title translates as "bitch" in English, falls firmly into the former category.

An edgy, sexually-charged street anthem, it sees Balvin trading rhymes with Tokischa, who describes herself as a "dog in heat" and suggests "let's fall in love like strays".

Mother's disappointment

Both the song and the video drew criticism after they premiered on 7 September.

Colombia's vice president and chancellor Marta Lucía Ramírez said the song was "sexist, racist, chauvinist and misogynistic".

"In his video, the artist uses images of women and people of Afro-descendants – population groups with special constitutional protection – whom he presents with dog ears," she wrote in an open letter published on 11 October.

"In addition, while walking, the singer carries two Afro-descendant women tied with neck chains and crawling on the floor like animals or slaves."

She encouraged Balvin and the music industry to sign a petition that "includes various commitments for the promotion of women's rights in music and prevention of violence against them".

Image source, Universal MusicImage caption, The video was directed by Tokischa's manager Raymi Paulus

Last week, Balvin's mother told a Colombian news station that she had scolded her son for the song.

"When I found out, I called him [and asked], 'Where is the Josésito that I know?'" Alba Mery Balvin told Cosmovisión. "That song is not… I don't even know what to say. I did not see my José anywhere."

'Satirical representation'

The star deleted the video from YouTube on 17 October, but waited a week before issuing his apology.

"As a form of respect, I removed the video eight days ago," he said on his Instagram story. "But because the criticism continued, I'm here making a statement.

"Mom, I'm sorry too. Life gets better each day. Thank you for listening to me."

Tokischa also apologised in an interview with Rolling Stone; while trying to explain the thinking behind the visuals.

"It was very conceptual. If you, as a creative, have a song that's talking about dogs, you're going to create that world," she said.

"I understand the interpretation people had and I'm truly sorry that people felt offended. But at the same time, art is expression. It's creating a world."

Raymi Paulus, Tokischa's manager and the video's director, added that the video was meant as a "satirical representation" of the "many contexts of the word 'perra'", as well as life in the impoverished barrios of the Dominican Republic, and the way its people are seen in society.

"Our creative process never aimed to promote racism or misogyny," he said. "The Dominican Republic is a country where most of the population is black and our blackness is predominant in underground scenes, where the filming took place, and which was the subject of the video's inspiration.

"Perra was a video filmed in the neighbourhood, with people from the neighbourhood, and the use of people of colour in Perra was nothing more than the participation of our people in it."

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