By Panagiota Katsaveli,
If we could simply take a trip all around the world, we would notice the intense differentiation between human cultures, which makes them special and distinct from one another. Culture, obviously, is a multilayered concept but one of its most prominent components is language. Besides being a communication tool, languages constitute an important integral part of our identity and thus they should be preserved and protected. In a world characterized by globalization and the dominance of the English language, this task seems close to impossible, but interesting mediums have been recruited to keep linguistic diversity alive!
In the many years that our planet exists, many languages have been invented and used by different groups of people as a way to unite them under a common identity while simultaneously distinguishing them from others. However, globalization has taken its toll on language diversity. The English language is rendered a necessity; traditional media and social media platforms borrow elements from the now dominant language inserting them in other languages and people are basically forced to learn English since it is considered an important element for the pursuit of a bright future. In this light, many languages have been facing the danger of extinction and others have gone as far as to completely disappear when their last speakers died. This development has not only deprived humankind of the opportunity to familiarize with these unique languages and study their importance, but also it has limited our cultural heritage.
But there is no need to worry, since to almost every problem there is a perfectly suitable solution. In this case, the solution lays in the rhythm of rap music! Rap music besides a music genre is a form of expression for young people. Young people are able to connect easily to those songs and for many is the perfect way to express their own feelings and problems. For this reason, elders thought they would use this type of music to write songs in their native, endangered languages so as to not lose them. The songs will function as a tool to preserve the language of different communities, making them both more memorable and appealing to a younger audience. Rap music’s value and contribution has been recognized for decades hence it is natural to have been chosen as the genre to associate disappearing languages with. Its verses can contain more words and messages in a single song with a catchy rhythm than other styles, and rap music has been a frontrunner in adding to our English vocabulary. So, why would it not be beneficial for less widespread languages? It can be a way to provide both salvation and a kind of rebirth!
Rap music and hip-hop were born in the 1970s and ever since they have developed into the lingua franca of the younger generations. This is the reason why people choose rap music to give new lifeblood to their languages and reach unexpected new audiences. In the northern mountainous part of Columbia, Antioquia, two indigenous teenage brothers, Brayan and Dairon Tascon, first encountered rap years ago when they spotted a street performance in the central square of the town Valparaiso. They were moved by the energy and intimacy of rap music and decided to use it in their own native dialect, Embera, estimated to be spoken by less than 100,000 people in both Colombia and Panama. In their songs posted on YouTube, besides adopting the movements of rappers that they imitated, they embedded elements of their own culture like the colorful threaded necklaces and headbands of the Embera people. These elements which give a better feel of the Embera culture in the songs, through hip hop beats and the occasional traditional flute, prove just how proud the artists are of their unique cultural identity.
Another example of a group performing in the language of a minority group and maintaining hip hop’s authenticity is a Bolivian hip hop team that raps in Aymara. Yet another case of a hip hop group trying to preserve an endangered language is called Nuuk Posse; they rap in Kalaallisut (or West Greenlandic), a language which in the past has been jostled away due to the supremacy of the Danish language. The hip hop group Tystion constitutes a better mix between tradition and rap music. They intertwine Welsh literacy and tradition, in a beautiful combination of African-American hip hop culture with the traditional Celtic music, ultimately producing a mesmerizing unique pop sound. The groups and individuals choosing to rap in their disappearing native languages, make sure that the world is not deprived of linguistic diversity and the value that their languages have to offer as well as get the general public accustomed to the difficulties their people have to face in an attempt to raise awareness.
All in all, language is one of the most important elements of our everyday life and communication; it does not only allow us to communicate but most importantly it provides us with the power to choose the details in the way we decide to express ourselves. Besides individuals, a language represents entire communities of people distinguishing their unique identity, customs and culture in general. Thus, it is crucial that we make any effort possible in order to preserve languages. It is our responsibility to discover fun, memorable ways to save every language and by extension the colors and beautiful details it has to offer to our already colorful world. This is everyone’s responsibility but the biggest proportion of it falls into the hands of the younger generations since they are the future of our society and they owe it to themselves to be better!
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