Nils Rune Utsi is a rapper with an unusual story. He hails from Máze, a Norwegian town of roughly 250 people, and he is the founding member of Slincraze, a music group that raps entirely in a near-extinct language. In an interview with the BBC, Utsi recounts his “average” childhood, his love of music, and his reasons for rapping in “Sami,” a language spoken by less than 20,000 people worldwide.
Although Utsi might seem like an unusual case, he certainly isn’t the first to use the medium of rap as a way of proclaiming and maintaining indigenous identity. Australia has seen the rise in recent years of Aboriginal rappers and musicians, using music as a way of counteracting the disenfranchisement of their communities. Native American rappers like Supaman, Melle Mel, and King Just have also turned to rap as a way of both continuing an indigenous legacy of oral story telling and also connecting to larger musical counter culture.
The lesson here might be that, in addition to books, museums, and archives, a powerful way of preserving languages may be inspiring young people to celebrate their linguistic traditions through rap and other musical forms. This allows for the language to come alive and maintain relevance for future generations.
What do you think about the potential for rap to save dying languages? Tell us your thoughts!