What rap songs are in Latin

Ista: the Latin rappers

Latin goes hip hop

Latin is dead? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. The German band Ista has been demonstrating how lively the language is since 1992.

Latin teacher Edgar Barwig is a background singer and songwriter. In the interview he describes how the idea came about and what it means to rap in Latin.

Mr. Barwig, how difficult is it for you as a Latin teacher to write the lyrics?

It's not difficult if you have the courage to use your imagination. Latin works a bit on the modular principle: you put certain elements together, which then become something of your own. We take advantage of this, for example, by expressing entire subordinate clauses with a participle. We also dare to expand the linguistic framework a little further. That doesn't mean that it gets grammatically wrong - we always work with the help of lexicons and strive for grammatical correctness - but we also use late Latin and poetic language, for example, instead of giving them a wide berth.

Has Ista changed your relationship to the Latin language?

I wouldn't say that. But that also has to do with my own biography. I have been in contact with the “living Latin scene” since 1979, when I was still at school. Back then, my sister and I were attending spoken Latin seminars. We didn't necessarily learn to speak Latin fluently, but we dealt with the language differently. There used to be an advertising slogan: “Concrete is what you make of it.” This also applies to Latin. One can see language as a completely frozen object of worship or deal with it freely and creatively. That was the approach that I wanted to implement, and the Ista project came just right for me.

But isn't Latin a dead language after all?

No, not at all! Latin is used by millions of people around the world every day, even if there are no longer any native speakers. It has a long tradition - I remember the Latin Quarter in Paris or the Middle Ages. It was a matter of course: those who were well educated spoke fluent Latin. A man like Shakespeare knew Latin as well as English. A language is dead when nobody knows and uses it any more, like a curiosity, such as Old Assyrian: There are a few scholars who deal with it, but what role does it play in public?

How are your texts received by Latin teachers?

Some say that this is not classical Latin, we should have adhered to the metric more. We could have done that, but we made a conscious decision against it beforehand because we see ourselves as musicians and not as suppliers for teachers. Many colleagues also like to use our music in class, as a nice change from everyday classroom life.

How do your own students find your making Latin songs?

They think that's great. However, there is a certain disenchantment when they find that the person who does this still requires them to learn vocabulary. Then everyday life has us again.

How can students and teachers use the pieces of music in class?

That depends to a large extent on the students themselves. I have an ideal based on the content of the songs. For example, many of our texts depict modern life in Latin. First of all, that's an anachronism. In a sense, we would like to brush against the grain in dealing with Latin and say: Latin is a living thing. One can develop a feeling for the use of this language and in this way contribute to the fact that the audience - and also the students - get a new relationship with the Latin language.

About Ista

"Ista" actually come from Wilhelmshafen, but now live all over the republic. One thing holds them together: Latin. The band has been rapping in Latin since 1992. The band project was created at the Cäcilienschule Wilhelmshaven - more precisely: in a Latin course.


Featured image: Fotolia 59541883, by Syda Productions, cropped and scaled down

About Dirk Herzog

Dirk Herzog has been writing about educational and school projects for many years. At the vocabulary blog, he takes care of topic planning and editorial processes.

Keywords:Latin, song lyrics