On Wednesday October 6, Chile's world-renowned
musical group Inti-Illimani will perform at UC-Berkeley's Zellerbach
auditorium. Professor Beatriz Manz (UC-Berkeley, Ethnic Studies
and Geography) interviewed Horacio Salinas, founder and composer
of the group.
us if there will be any thing special or surprising about
on October 6 at Zellerbach auditorium? You will perform
with Spanish guitarist Paco Peña, right?
Horacio: I think every
encounter with Paco Peña constitutes a challenge in many
respects. Flamenco guitar and Paco's elegant style engender
in us a careful approach toward music. Flamenco is a heartrending,
mysterious, and earthy form of expression. In a broader sense,
Latin America has inherited a guitar that was itself flamenco
at one time. And so, to play with Paco is to look within
the enigma of music and that search is always new, always
Beatriz: How many years
has Inti-Illimani been in existence and what are some of
the highlights of those years?
Horacio: We have been
together for 32 years. Our lives and our history are filled
with important events that we have engraved into sounds,
texts, and rhythms. One of them, the first one, was to discover
the immense heritage of Latin American musical culture and
to fall in love with it. That was around 1967. Later, our
exile in Italy from 1973 to 1988 that was also a crucial
period for us personally as well as our musical composition.
One album that raised us to a new standard was Palimpsesto.
And finally, the return to Chile just about eleven years
ago was of course a turning point with new creations and
a new quest. We are trying to forge or fuse different instruments,
harmonies and rhythms that speak from the clear pulse of
the world's popular music. Popular music is similar in spirit
in every corner of the world.
Beatriz: I'm told that
Zellerbach is very special for the Inti. Is that so?
Oh yes! It is a fantastic auditorium. And it is a place that
is closely tied to our lives. I would say that it is a space
that demands a lot from us, that engages us, and where to
play and to sing is a delight. I would say that it engages
us because we feel at home there. And of course, it is in
one's own home where the passion for life always has to be
kept fresh--in this case, through music--and the effect that
we wish convey. Berkeley, the Center for Latin American Studies,
La Peña, are very special to us. We are looking forward to
mixing Chilean folklore, oral tradition with modern music (Edith
Piaf and cabaret were very important for Violeta Parra, who
spent some years in Paris where she set up a "peña", the Spanish
Civil war songs were always present during the Unidad Popular),
folk and rock music (Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, the
Beatles, and Led Zeppelin were an important source of inspiration
and dialogue) and sometimes classical music (there is an important
Baroque legacy in the colonies, especially around in the Andean
region) these artists contributed in one of Latin America's
most historical political and cultural movements. As such they
became important agents in the social change that was taking
place. With their music they created a fertile ground for communication
and expression of the new social ideals. Also, this musical
artists ruptured what had been a highly hierarchical art scene
in Chile, with rigid divisions between "high" and "low" culture:
high culture was for the upper class who lived in the city,
low culture for the lower class who lived in the country and
the shanty towns.
The appeal of the new popular
music crossed the cultural barriers between classes and center/periphery.
It is no accident hat these artists came from diverse class
and cultural backgrounds. For instance, Víctor Jara came
from Santiago's (in)famous "poblaciones" (shanty towns);
Violeta Parra, a miner's daughter, came from the North of
Chile and was able to stand out in a traditionally male-dominated
world; and Patricio Mans was from the deep-south Mapuche
territory. In the same way, Inti-Illimani brought together
diverse elements, taking advantage of the rich diversity
of Chilean and Latin American culture.
One of the special trademarks
of Inti-Illimani, however, is that its members are all formally
trained musicians. The Quilapayún, whose song "Venceremos" can
be regarded as the hymn of the Unidad Popular, have been
traditonally seen as more focused on "hard-core" politics.
On the other hand -- and bearing in mind that this is quite
a manichean reduction - Inti-Illimani are generally as concerned
with the formal musicality as with the political message.
Following the 1973 coup, the
members of the group were forced to go into exile. In Italy
they not only became influenced by popular and classical
European music, but also came into contact with a wide and
diverse scope of musical production from Africa, Asia and
Latin America. Exile in that sense allowed for a maturation
of the "soul" of Inti-Illimani, product of the dialogue with
the larger world. During exile, they worked to maintain the
unity of the Chilean people through their concerts and music,
and to raise consciousness about the political and ethical
consequences of military oppression in many Latin American
countries. When my own family was exiled from Chile, Inti-Illimani's
music came with us, helping us to work through our nostalgia
for our lost soil, and giving us a sense of identity and
pride in our culture. Throughout the transition to democracy,
their music has been an important reminder of what Chile
historically stood for; and today, it remains a powerful
example of what we can be. Recently, Inti-Illimani performed
in the National Stadium - the same national stadium where
the military once rounded up its opponents to kill them,
and broke Víctor Jara's hands in a brutal display of repression.
Inti-Illimani's concert inaugurated the reincarnation of
the facility as Víctor Jara Stadium, reminding many Chileans
of both the beauty of our freedom and the high cost at which
it has come.