Video of the Week: Quechua Artist Raps in Mountain Landscape

Bouncing Latin trap beats mix with the whistling sound of the quena, a Peruvian wind instrument of the Andes, in rapper-singer Renata Flores’ latest music video  “Qam hina,” released this past fall. More than just a Bad Bunny influenced rap, however, Flores’s song, (“Like You” in English) is sung in the Indigenous Andean language, Quechua. Her lyrics reflect on Indigenous identity and the struggles of women in Peru’s countryside. The video also references mountains, suggesting them as the homeland of Quechua speakers, with snow peaks visible throughout. 

Quechua—the language of the Incas—is spoken by eight million people across the Andes today, but has been silenced in pop culture and society over the decades. Flores is part of a new wave of young artists in Peru that are trying to buck that trend by inserting their native language into mainstream culture through rap and pop music. Despite its widespread use across South America, Quechua has often been treated as an artifact of the past, and something used by the poor or “backward” people of the glacier-covered mountain ranges.  

Ms. Flores, 19, lives in the small mountain town of Ayacucho, in Peru and is the daughter of musicians. Her parents are former members of a Peruvian rock band and her mother now runs a music academy. Her mother helped produce “Qam hina,” her new hit song with over 300,000 views on YoutTube. Her grandmother, who helped teach her Quechua, was never fully fluent in Spanish.  

In the video, shot by a young filmmaker named Apolo Bautista, Flores raps Quechua amongst the mountain vistas where the language was born. In the song, she narrates the story of a woman whose grandparents perished in Peru’s brutal civil war of the 1980s and 1990s. But she also sings about the plight of rural girls in Peru and the dangers they face on long walks to school. At one point the narrator in the song experiences an unspecified abuse during the walk home from class. During the song’s chorus, local girls chant “Munani musquyta,” which means “I want to dream.” They also say “I want to learn. I want to speak.” 

In an interview with the New York Times, Flores, whose videos are now widely viewed across Peru, said that her goal was to “rescue our culture.”  

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