Musician raps in Mayan to raise awareness on preserving ancient language

World Today

Mexico’s indigenous Maya culture date back to 1,000 BCE. Millions still follow the customs and traditions of their ancestors. One musical artists is using a modern art form to help preserve this native language. CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.

The word ‘Maya’ conjures up images of ancient pyramids, intricate art, and colorful vibrant dance, but you probably would not think of rap music, with artists prowling the stage and spitting lyrics in Mayan.

Led by a desire to learn more about his own culture, and inspire others to do the same, for the past decade the musical artist Pat Boy has become a figurehead for this niche musical genre – Mayan rap.

“I speak about the daily lives of Maya as they are today and of their ancestors, traditions and customs and the life I live as an artist and a young person,” Pat Boy said.

The ‘Pat’ in Pat Boy means ‘to create something new’ in Mayan, and the artist believes he has a duty to preserve and foster pride in the ancestry he shares with his contemporaries.

“You see how the Mayan language is being lost bit by bit, because the youth are not interested,” said Pat Boy. “So the Rap Maya project aims to inspire young creative people, whether they’re making rap, pop, doing theatre, playing reggae or performing – it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it involves Mayan.”

Pat Boy currently performing a show at a Maya cultural festival.

His music is in no way out of place amid the more traditional customs, says the event’s organizer, who is delighted to have him as an ally promoting the Mayan language to a new generation.

“People like him, using that type of music, do it to motivate young people, just as we are trying to do, to take an interest in and to master the Mayan language,” said Karina Abreu Cano, the Coordinator at the Institutional Center for Languages. “It’s clear he inspires them and makes it interesting to his generation.”

Around 6 million people speak varying forms of Mayan as a native language, though they remain very much the minority in a country dominated by colonially imported Spanish. Mayan rap is one way for an ancient culture to reinvent itself in an often hostile contemporary world.