Renata Flores, a Peruvian singer, embraces her Quechua heritage
FEW POP videos require subtitles. But a minute after “Francisca Pizarro”, a song by Peruvian singer Renata Flores, some appear. “Let’s just remember that our worlds came together,” sings Ms. Flores (pictured) in Spanish, shortly before entering dance and Quechua, the language of the Inca.
Some 47 indigenous languages are used in Peru, by 4 million people. About three quarters speak Quechua, which is also spoken in Bolivia and Ecuador. Designated an official language in 1975, it has been promoted in recent years by politicians. In 2017, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, then president, launched a ‘mother tongues policy’, including state-run information programs in indigenous languages, ahead of the 200th anniversary of independence from Spain this year. .
These efforts have given Quechua a little boost. He got a bigger one, some say, from the music of Ms. Flores, a 20-year-old from Ayacucho. Her Quechua cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” went viral online in 2015. In March, Ms. Flores released her first full-length album, which fuses rap and hip-hop with pop and music. blues and which is mainly sung in Quechua. She also became the face of a new perfume line, speaking the language of advertisements. “I think people can do much more important things when they can use their own language,” says Flores.
All this despite the fact that she only studied it at the age of 13. Indeed, although she now speaks quite fluently, she still goes to university to improve her skills. Luis Andrade, of the Catholic University of Peru, suggests that his music may partly explain why more and more people now identify as being of Quechua descent.
“Using Quechua, for me… is being able to express yourself in a way that works for you,” says Flores. Of course, this also attracts attention, which is useful for a pop star. Rosalía, a Spanish singer whom Ms. Flores names in “Francisca Pizarro”, has been accused of “cultural appropriation” for using reggaeton (originally from Puerto Rico) and flamenco (associated with Roma). Ms Flores has yet to face similar complaints for copying an African-American artist, but you never know.
This article appeared in the Americas section of the print edition under the headline “The way it makes her feel”