Singing Hip Hop in Native Languages to Reclaim Identities
Musical expressions are liberating and help build resilience. Some musical expressions have managed to unleash social change and others, to shape identities and resistance, but above all music is contributing significantly to keeping Native languages and expressions alive.
Indigenous languages are living, active languages that grow and are renewed, for example, when young people take ownership of them and create new identities.
When dissident expressions rise up in music, such as hip-hop or rap, hundreds of thousands across the planet seek to express themselves with these new musical trends. Anthropologists, so fond of labeling everything, have called the phenomenon “transculturization,” but when young indigenous people adopt these expressions, they make them their own, highlighting their identity, their language, and their unique message. There is no colonization or assimilation, what we see is the use of a tool, music, to express in a rhythm, with cadence and provocative intent, the possibility of proudly singing to the world rage and love, anguish and resilience, experience and awareness.
Then, when the ritual drums begin to reverberate, the ocarinas to whistle, the chirimías, rattles, and guitars accompany the young people, what emerges is a new Native song; it is a brave, irreverent, risky, renewing, creative, demanding, rebellious and always provocative rap, hip hop, and punk.
It is the need to express oneself, to create a new narrative, with new cultural references, without renouncing our roots, the mother language and culture, provided that countercultural manifestos are sung.
In any case, the musicians struggle to be recognized, to claim space in the spiritual world they come from, as well as an affront to the globalized world that impacts us with its frugal fragility and aims to make the different invisible.
Below you will find a small although symbolic sample, definitely not representative of the richness of all musical proposals out there, as a glimpse of this continental countercultural phenomenon that grows day by day.
Identified as one of the first indigenous rap groups in Brazil. The members are Guarani Kaiowá from the Jaguapirú and Bororó villages in Mato Grosso do Sul. Their song Terra Vermelha (Red Earth) talks about the historical struggle for land and Manga Nembosarái seeks to celebrate this ancient Guarani sport, a precursor to soccer, with a ball made out of rubber from the mangaisi tree. It also enhances the right of women to master this sport, and for everyone to play with bare feet.
Official page: https://www.facebook.com/BroMcsRap/
[CHILE] Portavoz x Luanko x Dj Cidtronyck: “Witrapaiñ”
Rap Mapuche artist, Portavoz uses his music to talk about the discrimination and resistance of the people in Mapuche Country (Wallmapu), who “continue to keep our culture and language alive, and defend the ancestral territory.” His song “Witrapaiñ” (We are still standing) seeks to reaffirm the self-determination of the peoples and that they cease to be seen as mere “folklore” of the Chilean state.
Official page: https://www.facebook.com/Portavoz-Pagina-Oficial-199380760093673/
[ECUADOR] LaMafiAndinA: “Warmi Hatari”
LaMafiAndinA and the Women Without Violence campaign “This is how Ecuador wins!” created this video to promote a country free of violence and discrimination against women, #MujeresSinViolenciaEc. Taki Amaru, leader of the band, is originally from Colombia but when she moved to Ecuador as an adolescent she learned to speak Kichwa, lives in Imbabura with predominantly indigenous people, and has gradually assumed an Andean indigenous identity that directly influences her art.
Official page: https://www.facebook.com/LaMafiAndinA-1628384490790049/
[EEUU] Supaman: “Why”
(In collaboration with Taboo, from the Black Eyed Peas)
Supaman is a professional dancer and singer/song writer of the Apsáalooke people in the northern part of the country. He lives in a reservation in Minnesota where his family has been a historical victim of the poverty imposed by the state. His first album “It’s Time” in 2005 won the Native American Music Award. His song “Why” talks about racism and with his art he has supported causes of resistance such as Standing Rock.
Official page: https://www.facebook.com/Supamanhiphop/
[GUATEMALA] Guatemala Balam Ajpu: “Toj”
Balam Ajpu is a hip hop band from Guatemala that met for the first time in the Lake Atlitán region when helping to build a “Hip-Hop House Worldview” community center for children to develop their artistic side. Part of the band’s project is to boost the Mayan worldview and instruments. Toj, which in Mayan means fire pays tribute to the Mayan kingdom that had occupy what is now Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.
Official page: https://www.facebook.com/Balam-Ajpu-1075374445824961/
[MEXICO] Yune Va: “Yo no quiero”
Oaxaca’s rapper, Yune Vaa says that Cuicateco is a language in danger of extinction and making Cuicateco music is a way to safeguard the language. As an adolescent he traveled to Oaxaca City to study high school and couldn’t practice his language, so he makes an effort to write songs in his homeland where he can speak it with his family and people. His songs reflect the migrations of indigenous peoples from the countryside to the city and its consequences.
Official page: https://yunevaa.com/
[PERU] Renata Flores: “Qam hina”
Renata Flores is a feminist rap and pop singer from Peru, and she sings in Kichwa and Spanish. She seeks to demystify Kichwa, a language that is used by more than 8 million people in Latin America. Her song “Qam hina” talks about the right of women, in particular, girls to go to school and is dedicated to her grandmother, who could not finish her studies.
Official page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-QM2vahE4-IOAsLGCIecdw
[CANADA] Tanya Tagaq: “Uja”
Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq defines herself as an experimental vocalist, who uses guttural sounds and her native language to break the limits of conformity. Her style more closely to punk but we wanted to include it for it being purely challenging and disconcerting. Her people, as she says on her website, “The Inuit people live on the cutting edge of the climate emergency. As sea ice dwindles at astonishing rates, they are witnessing the death of the entire Arctic ecosystem, as the colonialist machine rolls on, mining newly uncovered areas for diamonds. And the Inuit know the truth about the contemporary natures of the crimes at the center of Canada’s identity”
Official page: http://tanyatagaq.com/
In collaboration with Buffy Sainte-Marie.