Peru's Korean-pop revolution in Quechua, 'Q-pop'

By Gloria Lopez and Lucinda Elliott

LIMA (Reuters) - Lenin Tamayo, named after the leader of the Russian Revolution, is taking on Peru's music scene with a new genre that resembles South Korean pop music but with songs in Quechua, the language of the Incas.

Tamayo grew up speaking Quechua at home in the capital Lima, and has received at least 4 million virtual hearts on Tik Tok in response to his tracks that fuse Korean beats with Andean folklore.

But the 23-year-old is less concerned about social media metrics. Instead, he is striving to tackle discrimination through music and bring attention to the importance of the South American country's ancestral past.

"My music had to embrace my origins strongly," the singer told Reuters ahead of a concert in Lima's northern district. "The most primordial sound of the Andes is the voice, and the voice goes hand in hand with the language," he said, "Quechua is what is going to define me and my sound."

Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language in South America, used by roughly 10 million people, from Colombia and Peru towards in the north, to Argentina and Chile in the far south. It is also spoken in Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil.

It was at school that Tamayo first began listening to Korean pop music, known as K-pop, which started gaining an international folloawing around a decade ago through supergroup BTS.

Contemporary Korean culture became a way for Tamayo to make likeminded friends and deal with bullying that he says he faced for his indigenous appearance.

"I spotted a group of young girls who were listening to K-pop and watching Kdramas (Korean TV dramas) and I think it was in those circumstances that's how I became closer to Korean culture, by trying to make friends," he told Reuters.

The result is a 21st century musical mix that the internet has dubbed "Q-pop".

Each song from his debut album released on Aug. 10 is based on Incan mythology: Kay Pacha (the world of the living), Uku Pacha (the world of the dead) and Hanan Pacha (the celestial kingdom). On stage he dances like a Korean performer, to sounds from rain sticks, panpipes and lutes traditional to the Peruvian highlands.

Outside the venue in Lima, excited fans gather to take selfies. "(It) helps raise awareness among all our people, all our new generations and the older ones too, who are part of Peru," concert goer Gabriel Castro said.

(Reporting by Gloria Lopez and Lucinda Elliott; Editing by Sandra Maler)