Two Artists, Two Different Paths In Exploring The Indigenous Roots Of Latinx Music : Alt.Latino The histories and sounds of Mexico's Comcaac and Canada's First Nation peoples inspire and drive the new work of Hector Guerra and Akawui.

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Two Artists, Two Different Paths In Exploring The Indigenous Roots Of Latinx Music

Simuchi Xeenoj (Princess of the Comcáac Nation) and Zoraida Romero. Erika Maldo/Courtesy of the Artist hide caption

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Erika Maldo/Courtesy of the Artist

Simuchi Xeenoj (Princess of the Comcáac Nation) and Zoraida Romero.

Erika Maldo/Courtesy of the Artist

Over the centuries, the mestizo music of Latinx culture emerged from the collisions — by choice, chance or force — of Africans, Europeans and indigenous peoples. Today, we highlight two different artists' paths in exploring the First Nations and pueblo originario roots of Latinx music.

In a Skype call with Alt.Latino, Bolivian-Spanish rapper Hector Guerra describes how before he first travelled to from Spain to Mexico about six years ago, he sensed, during a chamán-led meditation, that he should travel to Mexico, in order to meet another elder there who could guide him towards a new path. Fast forward to 2018 — after spending time with indigenous peoples in several areas of Mexico — Guerra's debut of the video for "Vida" is the fulfillment of following that vision.

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"Vida", the second single from Guerra's upcoming third album Desde el Infierno, visually and sonically features Zoraida and Princess Simuuchi Xeenoj, of the Comcaac or Seris people of Sonora, Mexico. The song's lyrics, as well as its cover photo by Jorge Fraile, all highlight cosmovision, the Comcáac people's philosophy of gratitude for each day of life and love of nature.

For Guerra, the journey has been about learning from the elders of the Comcáac Nation, whom he calls grandparents or abuelos, and sharing their teachings, designed to elevate the spirit. The song, which features Chilean indie artist Mariel Mariel on vocals and was produced by Ozomatli's Will Dog and Justin Porée, speaks of gratitude for each day, listening to your heart and enjoying life.

Moving much further north, all the way to Montreal, rapper Akawui, whose background is Mapuche, is exploring his First Nation musical heritage, from the perspective of a Canadian musician with Chilean roots.

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Akawui grew up, thanks to his musician father, steeped in Andean rhythms and songs. Having noticed similarities between the Andean tinku dance and First Nations rhythms, Akawui began to learn drumming with Jesse Achneepineskum and the Redtail Spirit Singers, of which he is now a member. For his composition "Deshaia," Akawui incorporated their drumming and chants into one of his compositions.

The tune takes its name from a word in the language of the Secwepemc people, and refers to taking the first step to conquer one's fears. The video for "Deshaia" also features traditional dancer Owen Skahionwiio and his son Nashtyn Mayo.

As we experience this fascinating trend in Latinx music across the continent, it is heartening to know that colonization was not able to extinguish sources of ancestral wisdom. And certainly the singers' chants in Anishinaabemowin in "Deshaia" offer excellent advice for these trying times: "Listen to the elders, let's dance and sing! That is what the creator calls for."


Hector Guerra's "Vida" is available now — the album it comes from, Desde el Infierno, will be available January 19 on Kasba Music.


Akawui's "Deshaia" is available now on iTunes.