Sunday, September 27, 2009

Victor Jara: Canto Libre

September 28th, 1932 - September 15th, 1973
Forget Bob Dylan. Victor Jara was the Che Guevara of folk music. He lived and died as a revolutionary, a Chilean musician who articulated the aspirations of his country's people in simple and elegant songs. An Unfinished Song by his widow Joan Jara, is a moving account of their lives together during the turbulent 60s, the rise of Salvador Allende's Popular Unity government, and Victor's death in September 1973 as a victim of Pinochet's murderous coup.

When we were in Santiago this past summer we visited the Victor Jara Foundation on the Plaza Brazil and met some of the volunteers who run it. The cops had just raided the premises in an apparent mistake and the volunteers were organizing a concert in protest. "Requiem For Victor Jara" was painted in 1973 by the German artist, Wolfgang Mattheur.

Victor was also a distinguished director, playwright and actor. He brought new forms to Chilean drama and incorporated folk elements from indigenous peoples such as the Mapuche, based in the central and southern parts of the country. Today is Victor's birthday - he would have been 77. His "canto libre" (free song) still lives on...

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