Emberà is a language that is spoken by approximately 80,000 people. It is an indigenous language of Colombia and Panama and like many indigenous languages, it is in danger.
Preserving culture and language is a fundamental part of maintaining a diverse cultural heritage. Progression and technology come with the connection of peoples, which unfortunately can mean the loss of ancient traditions and languages. As WIB explains in the Tribal Languages series “It is only in a language that we find our lives, our stories, our ancestors and our future too. Tribal Languages, therefore are universally significant and are languages of the earth containing ecological, geographical, and climatic information.” Thus, preserving them is important.
Dario, 19, and Brayan, 16, are two cousins from the Emberà ethnic group in Colombia. Emberà is an ethnic group of approximately 50,000 people in Colombia and 30,000 in Panamà. The Emberá language is a group of mutually-intelligible languages spoken throughout these two Latin American countries.
The cousins have found an original way to preserve their language and cultural heritage: through hip hop. The rap duo named themselves Linaje Original, meaning “original lineage”. Their encounter with this musical style happened on a square in Valparaiso, Colombia. A group of youngsters was rapping in the square and Brayan and Dario immediately loved their way of singing. Without thinking, they approached the group and asked for the microphone “we improvised in our own language” they said.
They now write and sing about their heritage and cultural traditions. Using traditional indigenous instruments like the flute, and mixing traditional hip hop beats. They hope to reach the younger generations through this modern style which also presents traditions in all their aspects, therefore influencing them to preserve their cultural heritage and to understand it. Their videos as well as their music, in fact, cover different aspects of what life is for the Emberà, their cooking traditions, community work, and rituals.
Dario and Brayan spend their days working the land and doing community chores, and writing music:
“We write every day. What inspires us? Our indigenous roots, our ancestors, the environment, and peace..in the beautiful things that we see here” says a young and enthusiastic Brayan.
Hip Hop is a musical style that was born in the late 70s, at the end of the Civil rights movement, as the voice of the marginalized black community in the United States. When it emerged, this style exposed issues such as poverty, crime and unequal opportunities and access to a fair justice system. Although in a different environment, Brayan and Dario do come from a minority, in a country that has been torn by an internal conflict between the government and the FARC militia. The young men decide to concentrate on positive aspects and have not touched subjects of violence. In an interview with Mitù, Brayan said “We are very conscious when it comes to writing our lyrics. We sing about the environment, Mother Earth, no to violence and discrimination.”
The duo has toured around South America and released videos that have been viewed thousands of times, they hope to continue to spread their message even further.