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Peruvian Sociolinguist, Miryam Yataco, Writes About the Social Significance of Liberato Kani and “El Quechua en Resistencia”

Liberato Kani: El Quechua en Resistencia

There are artists that represent the ethos of their times, the Zeitgeist—anticipating, reflecting and shaping the aesthetics of the present, and the times to come.

I met Liberato Kani when he invited me to participate in his latest musical video Harawi Boombap. Although I was the oldest in the crowd of really young people, and felt a bit out of generation, I also felt quite honored to be part of this new video clip. By this time, I had been keenly following Liberato´s production. I knew I was witnessing an individual pioneering something new. In every generation there are artists who represent and condense a specific moment in history and who also announce new paradigms. Liberato, I felt at that moment, had begun generating new mappings for the language, the mapping of Quechua in Peru´s urban space.

Quechua has in Liberato Kani an emerging artist who represents the language’s vitality and signals without any doubt, hope and strength. Through his urban intervention, Quechua shows its colors and dynamism from within. This, I think is being felt by many – young and not so young –in Peru at present.

An artist, characterized by using the Quechua language as a motif and also as a medium in his rap-poetry creations, Liberato erupts in an almost all Spanish-only pop-rap Peruvian musical environment. Young people in Peru now have the possibility to listen, sing and maybe start speaking and understanding some Quechua without participating in a formal class.

Liberato is associated by birth and by his language patrimony to Andahuaylas and San Juan de Lurigancho two places characterized as highly Quechua-embedded. You are sure to hear the language in these two places. Quechua is spoken by more than 4 million speakers in Peru. These are large speech communities that have been traditionally invisible to a monolingual Spanish-only state. For the 12 to 10 million of speakers of Quechua in South America, exclusion, marginalization and language discrimination have all been part of their daily lives … personally and collectively, for years and years and years.

Over the past decade, efforts on part of some Latin American countries have been made to balance inequalities, resulting in new laws on recognition, protection and ¨inclusion¨ of indigenous language communities. For some languages at risk, this comes all too late. Many languages are on a brink of disappearing. Having but a few mother- tongue speakers at an elder age, their future seems grim. Recent generations have been denied the possibility to inherit their own language patrimony, a phenomenon we may call “stolen tongues.”

Linguist Ghilad Zuckerman sees these threatened languages that still hold potential for recovery as “sleeping beauties¨. Though the revival or revitalization processes are strongly associated to speech communities´ strong input. The perception that efforts to save and revitalize these languages are solely a matter of Language Policy intervention* crafted by official (usually non-indigenous) representatives of these modern Latin American states is again false hope. In this context, Liberato Kani’s rap shows up, as a surprise, and with a dignified response.

Artists like Liberato Kani emerge from the community, self-made, self-developing. It represents an intervention that is from the heart of Quechua-speaking communities, Quechua youth, from the ones long made invisible. This makes Liberato an authentic sign of language revival… a wave born strictly from within.

Liberato appears in the spirit of the language itself—strong, self-assured, articulate, and above all brave. With his demeanor and his spoken word, Liberato says, I am not a victim, I am proud of who I am, I am proud and grounded in my elders’ spoken word. This is who I am and I make no excuses for me, I am proud of who I am, in strength I am here to stay—me, my language my heritage, I am this country. Here in a master interview by El Montonero.

Moreover Liberato (a son of a Master Danzaq, Picaflor de Umamarca) comes across as an independent broker; he is an indie multimedia producer, sharing his work through the use of technology and the virtual world. He is what Zapata and Biondi call a Nómade Electronal**, going straight from the Oral register into the electronal or virtual world and redefining social interaction between Quechua speaking youth and mainstream Peru.

Quechua siminchikta tukuy ñankunapi rimasun wawqipaniykuna
– Liberato Kani

¨Allá los que quieran ver el quechua y quechua hablantes como excluidos. Allá quienes quieren seguir viéndolos como pasado fosilizado. Si la escribalidad aplastó esas voces hoy la electronalidad se las devuelve. Con mirada al futuro.¨
Dr. Eduardo Zapata

* Revitalizing languages require a lot more than Top-Down efforts.
** Nómades Electronales: Lo que nos dicen las escrituras de los jóvenes (2017) Eduardo Zapata Cárdenas, Juan Biondi Editorial(es): Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas. Lugar de publicación: Lima.

Author: Miryam Yataco, language rights advocate and sociolinguist. Her research has focused on language policies, and language practices marked by exclusion, marginalization and language discrimination.

Liberato Kani
You can join his Facebook Page at Liberatokani
LIBERATO KANI with his Grandmother, ANDAHUAYLAS APURIMAC video
Liberato Kani en HIP HOP PERU video
Liberato Kani LA RESISTENCIA DEL QUECHUA EN HIP HOP access
Liberato Kani in the NEWS video
Liberato Kani at the TEATRO NACIONAL with Uchpa and La Sarita video
JAMMIN Liberato Kani “Mana urmaspa” video
RIMAY PUEBLO – CD
Liberato Kani and Renata Flores

Presentations and Bibliographical References consulted:

Biondi, Juan y Zapata, Eduardo
1994 Representación oral en las calles de Lima. Universidad de Lima.
2006 La Palabra Permanente. Verba manent, scripta volant: Teoría y prácticas de la oralidad en el discurso social del Perú.” Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Perú.

Biondi, Juan, y Zapata, Eduardo
2017 NÓMADES ELECTRONALES. Lo que nos dicen las escrituras de los jóvenes: había que echarse a andar nuevamente. @Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas UPC.

Language Rights, Derechos Linguisticos, Lenguas en riesgo. Access on Facebook

Zuckermann, Ghilad: Sleeping Beauties Awake. Access

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NRC Partnership in Exploring Intersections of Mexican/Middle East Experience

On Friday, April 29th at 4pm, two of NYU’s National Resource Centers, CLACS and the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies partner to present an event titled Displacement. Borders. Home: Echoes of the Middle Eastern, North African, and Mexican Experienceas part of the PEN Literary Mews at NYU. This event will count with the participation of two great artists and educators Mark Gonzales and Bocafloja. They will reflect in conversation and performance, on their explorations of the intersections between the Middle East, North Africa, and Mexico around the topics of displacement, borders, and culture. This conversation will be moderated by Laura Torres-Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University. The event will be held at the Kevorkian Center. To RSVP click here.

Here is more on these amazing artists: