Grains of musical corn

by Diana Pastor

A few weeks ago I saw a video on Facebook of a guy from Cajolá, (one of the poorest municipalities of Quetzaltenango) who made a video of himself doing a cover of a rap song. What made it noteworthy? The song was in the Mayan language Mam. Soon after the video had been posted it had received numerous comments. Most were positive and congratulated the artist for giving his own cultural touch to a popular music genre. Others wrote that his rapping sounded pretty good, but that it would have been better in Spanish so that they could understand it. Some others seemed quite amazed how he was able to match the Mam words to the hip-hop rhythm.

This guy, who is completely unknown in the national music industry, is just a small example of the efforts that people almost anonymously make ??through their talent and creativity in order to revolutionize music and culture. Can one do this in a country where more than 5 out of 10 children suffer from malnutrition? Can you do it in a country where 17 murders occur daily? The answer, it would appear, is a resounding yes. Because a lot of the time creativity and ingenuity are born under living conditions that can’t exactly be considered to be the greatest.

Let’s move on to a different example in another department in the country: Solola, and talk about someone who has been achieving quite a substantial amount of local popularity in recent months. The Rapper MC Tzutu is known for being the only hip-hop artist who uses the Mayan languages tz’utujil, kakchiquel and quiche in his songs. MC Tzutu began working at a local radio station in his village, where he learned that young people in the municipality were more interested in learning through their everyday experience than by the ways they are taught in school. Tzutu believes that by using Mayan languages in his songs it would get young people from his community interested in them and then they could promote and preserve them through what is already naturally included in their daily lives: the contemporary music that they listen to on the radio.

Kabawil, a rock band from Totonicapán, also tries to integrate their cultural roots into the songs that they make. Many young people across the Western Highlands are big fans of rock music and many of them also speak kiche, whether it´s their mother tongue or not, and so they naturally love music that fuses their favourite genre with their own Mayan language.

Although some believe that these efforts are rather insignificant, I like to compare these artists to the grains of corn that make up a cob. And an important one too that inspires us to believe that there is still hope in this country, despite all its problems.

 

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