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A 17th-century hymn to the Virgin Mary, originally written in Quéchua

PERUVIAN FAMILY
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The Hanacpachap Cussicuinin is a choral jewel of colonial South American music.

When, in 1631, the Franciscan Friar Juan Pérez Bocanegra included the Hanacpachap Cussicuinin in his Ritual, Formulario e Institución de Curas – a liturgical manual for priests, written both in Spanish and Quéchua, the aboriginal language — he probably couldn’t have imagined his gesture would enthrone this anthem as the first polyphonic musical work of the “New World.”

Bocanegra claimed authorship for this hymn, but such claim remains disputed to the day: some historians and musicologists think this might have been the work of a native, instead. Here’s an excerpt of the first two verses of the hymn, both in English and in the original Quéchua:

Quechua
Hanacpachap cussicuinin,
Huaran cacta muchas caiqui.
Yupairuru pucocmallqui,
Runa cunap suyacuinin.
Callpannacpa quemicuinin,
Huaciascaita.

Uyarihuai muchascaita
Diospa rampan Diospamaman
Yurac tocto hamancaiman
Yupascalla, collpascaita
Huahuaiquiman suyuscaita
Ricuchillai.

English
Heaven’s joy!
a thousand times shall we praise you.
O tree bearing thrice-blessed fruit,
O hope of humankind,
helper of the weak.
hear our prayer!

Attend to our pleas,
O column of ivory, Mother of God!
Beautiful iris, yellow and white,
receive this song we offer you;
come to our assistance,
show us the Fruit of your womb.

Read more: Baroque rifle-wielding Peruvian angels of the 17th century

Composed in classic European fashion, its harmonic structure strictly following Renaissance structures, this hymn nevertheless resembles, rhythmically speaking, some forms of traditional Quechua (that is, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Bolivian and even northern Chilean and Bolivian and Southern Colombian) music. In the video below, the Hanacpachap Cussicuinin is sang in the Vatican.

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