LIMA — Lenin Tamayo, named after the leader of the Russian Revolution, is taking on the Peruvian music scene with a new genre that resembles South Korean pop music but with songs in Quechua, the language of the Incas.
Tamayo grew up speaking Quechua at his home in the capital Lima and has received at least 4 million virtual hearts on TikTok in response to his tracks which fuse Korean rhythms with Andean folklore.
But the 23-year-old is less concerned about social media metrics. Instead, he strives to fight discrimination through music and draw attention to the importance of the South American country’s ancestral past.
“My music had to strongly embrace my origins,” the singer told Reuters ahead of a concert in the northern district of Lima. “The most primordial sound of the Andes is the voice, and the voice goes hand in hand with the language,” he said, “Quechua is what will define me and my sound.”
Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language in South America, used by around 10 million people, from Colombia and Peru in the north to Argentina and Chile in the far south. It is also spoken in Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil.
It was at school that Tamayo started listening to Korean pop music, known as K-pop, which started gaining an international following a decade ago thanks to the supergroup BTS.
Contemporary Korean culture has become a way for Tamayo to make like-minded friends and deal with the bullying he says he has faced for his native appearance.
“I spotted a group of young girls who listened to K-pop and watched Kdramas (Korean TV series) and I think it was under these circumstances that I became closer to Korean culture, trying to make friends,” he told Reuters. .
The result is a 21st century musical mashup that the internet has dubbed “Q-pop.”
Each song on his debut album released on August 10 is based on Inca mythology: Kay Pacha (the world of the living), Uku Pacha (the world of the dead) and Hanan Pacha (the celestial kingdom). On stage, he dances like a Korean interpreter, to the sound of rain sticks, panpipes and traditional lutes from the Peruvian highlands.
Outside the venue in Lima, cheering fans gather to take selfies. “(It) helps to raise awareness of all our people, all our new generations and the older ones too, who are part of Peru,” concert goer Gabriel Castro said.
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