Business, Finance & Economics

Punk music preserves indigenous culture

This story was originally reported by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio.

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When the members of Hamac Caziim don their guitars, tassels and face paint, their aim is about more than just putting on a great show. They're also trying to preserve the language of the Seri Nation, from the Sonora region of Northern Mexico. Eduardo Diaz, executive director of the Smithsonian Latino Center told PRI's The World:

They were actually authorized by the elders of the particular pueblo, of the community, to go ahead and use rock music as a way to preserve the language and to get more of the youth involved in the preservation because there was a fear that the language would disappear.

The four band members are actually fishermen from remote villages on the Sea of Cortez. Drummer and band leader Israel Robles envisioned the group as a way of incorporating ancient tales told by his grandparents with punk music he listened to on borrowed cassette tapes. Fifteen years later, the band often tours Mexico and is now recording its second CD.

"Through our music," Robles told The World, "we want people to respect our language, our customs, and above everything our land." One way to achieve that is by singing in Seri instead of Spanish. Lead singer Francisco Molina told The World, "The band sings ancient words that are no longer used. They don't exactly know what they say, but they know it's important for the tribe to keep the words alive."

Another part of their success may be the band's ability to reach across generational lines, by mixing traditional culture with music often associated with young people. As one enthusiastic fan put it:

It's a good thing, because when the guys sing, everyone likes it. The kids, the teenagers, and the adults. Everyone.

You can watch a video of Hamac Caziim below:

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.