American Indian tries to save dying language through music

Rock ‘n’ roll just might save a language that is in danger of dying out. The man that made this part of his mission is American Indian recording artist and Grammy winner Robert Mirabal.

“In the Blood,” his 12th release, features songs in English as well as Tiwa, the indigenous language of Mirabal and his ancestors of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Mirabal explained that while 2,000 Taos Pueblo remain, only half speaks the language.

The difficulty of passing the language on to the next generation is made harder because Tiwa is a completely oral language and not a written one. The fragile language, if not taken care of, it could disappear in one age group.

CHALLENGES
Mirabal said the task of saving Tiwa is not as simple as recording the language for generations to come, because there are nuances to the language, such as gestures and innuendos, which don’t have sounds to record. He compared using conversational Tiwa in his music to teaching algebra to a student before he or she could learn physics.

“There are different levels to the language,” he said. “It’s a very poetic language; it paints pictures.”

The responsibility of passing the language down lies on the shoulders of those who still speak it, he said. By setting Tiwa to rhythm and melody, Mirabal wants to help preserve his culture and help create an easier way to learn Tiwa. “Bryan Mangieri

Bryan Mangieri

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