Arts & Entertainment

Guarani language breaks new ground at Latin Grammys

By Ana Mengotti

Miami, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- The Guarani language will make its Latin Grammy debut next week thanks to the success of Paraguayan band Tierra Adentro, which is aiming to revive the folk genre in their country and transcend borders through their music.

The group has achieved this breakthrough for their country’s co-official language (alongside Spanish) on the strength of their second studio album, “Aguije” (Thank You), which has been nominated in the Best Folk Album category in the 2020 edition of these awards bestowed by the Latin Recording Academy.

The five members of Tierra Adentro, who hail from different cities in Paraguay, say they have deep respect for their nation’s traditional folklore yet also thrive on delivering high-octane performances associated with rock and roll.

“Why not dream with Guarani? Why not believe in your dreams?” lead vocalist Dani Meza told Efe in Miami when asked whether the band’s reach could be hindered because the lyrics won’t be understood outside Paraguay.

Recalling that Master KG’s global hit “Jerusalema” is sung in the Zulu language, Meza said “Aguije” has the same Guarani fighting spirit seen in Paraguay’s national soccer team and predicted that it will be rewarded with a Latin Grammy on Nov. 19.

A sense of gratitude has inspired the album and is reflected in its title, the band members told Efe at their label’s recording studio in Miami, the South Florida city that is the venue for this year’s virtual Latin Grammys ceremony.

Tierra Adentro wanted to express thanks for having been able to finish this latest recording and continue making music during the Covid-19 crisis and “above all for the Guarani language,” Meza said.

The album consists of an instrumental track and six other songs with lyrics entirely in Guarani, an indigenous language spoken by more than 80 percent of Paraguay’s population.

“Aguije” has the distinction of being not only the first Guarani-language album but also the first with lyrics in any indigenous language to receive a Latin Grammy nomination.

Five of the tracks are new versions of traditional songs such as “Lembranças De Ypacarai” (Memories of Ypacarai) and “Guyra Campana” (The Bell Bird), while two others – “Aguije” and “Che sy” (Mother of Mine) – are original recordings, Meza said.

The band members said they will watch this year’s Latin Grammy ceremony from the residence of Paraguay’s consul in Miami, along with some of the musicians from different Latin American countries that collaborated on “Aguije.”

Their competitors in the Best Folk Album category are Peruvian singer-songwriter Susana Baca and three Colombian groups: Gaiteros de Pueblo Santo, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto and Quinteto Leopoldo Federico.

Luis Duarte, who plays guitar and also provides vocals on some tracks, said folk is experiencing a resurgence in Paraguay,” adding that artists in that genre still have the mission to be “the voice of the people and reflect the customs of the lands” they sing about.

But the means of expressing that “sense of patriotism and belonging” change over time, he said, noting that Paraguayan folklore is now undergoing a transition from established artists to a new generation of performers like Tierra Adentro.

Rodrigo Pereira, the group’s artistic director, said the band members also have cultivated their talents in other genres, in his case Colombian cumbia and vallenato.

Drummer Beto Barrios, born in Argentina to Paraguayan parents, has a background in heavy metal and is right at home in a band that, according to Meza, appeals to young people by shunning the seriousness typical of much folk music and “enjoying themselves on stage.”

“Why is it only with rock that we can jump around and dance?” Barrios asked.

Besides paying tribute to their roots and the Guarani language, the album strives to highlight and foster Latin American unity through music.

Venezuela’s Carlos Escalona, one of the album’s producers along with Rodrigo Pereira and Miguel “Nacho” Mendoza, told Efe that the goal was to make a record that was as “diverse as possible” by welcoming the contribution of musicians from other countries.

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