A couple of minutes passed until I could finally connect with Renata Flores through a video call. A few months back, I was scrolling through her photos on her Instagram profile not knowing who she really was but her unique style caught my attention. Her bio indicated she was a “Quechua singer, composer, and activist,” and, after a few minutes of listening to and watching her videos, I was obsessed with everything she did.
Flores is a music artist from Ayacucho, Perú, a city in the South Central part of the country, known for their artisanal crafts. She gained popularity a few years ago when a YouTube video of Flores singing Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” in Quechua went viral. The video was from a project she’s part of, which focuses in making the ancestral language regain its value among young people.
“I already had music in my genes,” Flores says. “My parents had a rock band and were always playing music when I was growing up.” That’s how she started getting into singing but she didn’t really grow up speaking Quechua. She heard it from her parents and from some chismes her abuelitas didn’t want her to know. Later, she decided to learn and make music in Quechua because she wanted to embrace that part of her culture.
She’s currently talking to me from a room in her home that appears to have a brick wall painted in silver, which gives her background a futuristic look. Her dark and silky long hair stands out in the picture and, from what I could see from the camera, she’s wearing a very comfortable look that features a sweater, glasses, and very minimal makeup. “My style is a fusion,” Flores says, referring to her mix between the modern trends and the traditional elements she wears when performing.
In her videos, you can see her wearing both traditional clothing and modern streetwear. Her style is a mix between rural and urban, which pays a tribute to her Indigenous roots, proving Andean culture is also part of the future, not something that solely lives in museums. This fusion comes naturally for Flores, since she lives in an urbanized area of Ayacucho, where Andean traditions still remain part of their daily lives. This is a culture that was looked down upon for decades– and still is–, but with her music, she’s determined to change this narrative.
When it comes to beauty, Flores keeps it simple. She takes a natural approach, also inspired by her roots and “las mamitas” that surrounded her growing up. “[Women] in Ayacucho would use cochinilla to paint their lips and cheeks,” she says, which is probably where her approach to pop of colors in her makeup comes from. But, like with her music, she has also used beauty to teach her followers words in Quechua with a fun video, where she translates the lipstick colors she’s wearing. “The “Q” in Quechua sounds like the “J” in Spanish, and also the “H” sounds like the “J” in Spanish; but it’s a softer sound,” she wrote in the caption.
However, Quechua and Andean traditions aren’t the only thing the young Peruvian singer advocates for with her music. Her lyrics are also packed with other issues her community faces. “[Gender based violence] is a subject that touches me a lot and, in order to express myself on that, I like to compose,” Flores says. Her single “Tijeras” is a great example of that, where she expresses her feelings about femicides and corruption, while motivating all women to speak out about it.
Flores pointed out that we should expect more on that theme on her first album, which was set for release in September but was delayed because of the pandemic. “The concept [of the album] are stories about Indigenous women who have contributed to Peruvian History — in its independence, empires, republic, and colony — by going out to protest,” she says. Flores adds we can expect her lyrics to include a mix of Quechua, Spanish, and English.
In the meantime, she’s in her home studio perfecting her music, getting inspired, and preparing herself for when it’s time to release her first album.