Music makes a powerful, passionate point
Llewellyn Hall, Friday, October 5.
Reviewer: Jennifer Gall
The connection between music and politics flamed bright in the vibrant performances of nueva cancion (literally ''new song'' - folk-inspired and socially committed songs) by Chilean band Inti-illimani Historico. Inti-illimani means ''Sun of the Illimani'' in the Aymara language. Illimani is the name of a mountain in the Bolivian Andes.
In Friday night's concert at Llewellyn Hall, the audience heard the power and the passion of the Chilean band formed in 1967 by a group of university students. Their song, Venceremos (We shall win) became the anthem of the popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. When the 1973 Chilean coup occurred, the band was on tour in Europe, where they learnt that their music had been banned by the ruling military junta. Unable to return home, the band took up residence in Italy and travelled, as they quip, ''on the longest tour in history''. They continued performing, using their music to raise consciousness internationally about the Chilean struggle.
In 2001, the group split, with the three original members; Jose Seves, Horacio Duran and Horacio Salinas founding Inti-Historico. Horacio Salinas retains his position as their musical director and main composer. The current line-up with the three original members is: Jorge Ball, Fernando Julio, Camilo Salinas and Danilo Donoso.
While it was marvellous to be a part of a musical event that was clearly of passionate significance to the Latin American audience members, I was thankful that I had a Spanish-speaking companion, as there was little English translation from the stage. The seven piece ensemble presented a well balanced range of instrumental and vocal arrangements in their program. Traditional settings such as the third number - a song ''to my most beloved'' were contrasted with more contemporary flavours in the accompaniment to the following song with crazy piano and impassioned vocals telling the tale of a fisherman's journey at night on the sea. The devilishly complex rhythmic patterns of La Culebra were followed by three children's songs from the group's album, Child's Play. The first of these my favourite of the evening was an evocative arrangement of a Cuban lullaby.
After interval, Afro-Peruvian rhythms underpinned the first instrumental followed by a poignant lament for a woman brought unwillingly from Angola to Peru. The Andean bass and the deep bass drum coloured the cascading patterns played on the guitars in the engaging instrumental, Aracarias commemorating the monkey puzzle tree, which is sacred to the Mapuche Indians.
Thinking of the concert now, I am left with the silvery shivering sounds of the charango and the picture of the charango player's shirt the colour of the Andean sun as he danced; the breathy syncopated voices of the pan-pipes; the constantly changing rhythmic patterns defined by the percussion; and the spine-tingling vocal dissonances of the male voices singing of pain, longing, struggle, love, loss and triumph.