|Written by Ramona Wadi, Photo by Alejandra Lastra|
|Tuesday, 21 December 2010 20:23|
This interview was first published in Upside Down World here
More than three decades ago, in September 1973, the world witnessed the horrors unleashed in Chile following the military coup of right wing military dictatorship Augusto Pinochet. But prior to the coup in Chile, there was a movement that elevated music to a higher consciousness. The Nueva Canción was the revolutionary song of Chile and other Latin American countries, and its strength lay in its loyalty to the people and delivery of its political message and social change.
In adhering to the social message within the music – fighting injustice, oppression and dictatorships, several artists of Nueva Canción suffered when their home countries were flagellated by right-wing regimes. For instance, Victor Jara was tortured and brutally murdered in the Estadio Chile.
The Pinochet regime was so concerned with the powerful message of the Nueva Canción that it strived to ban the genre of music, together with traditional musical instruments associated with the revolutionary style of songs. Other prominent singers and groups, such as Inti Illimani, Quilapayun and Patricio Manns were exiled.
Today, Nueva Canción artists are of a lesser number. Patricio Manns, Chilean poet, author, singer and songwriter is one of the few whose work is a testimony to history. Despite current trends and contemporary politics, which contribute a difference to ideology and culture, Manns remains committed to the universality of the Nueva Canción, and continues to be a revolutionary voice, recognizing the necessity of it and promoting the movement through his numerous works.
Patricio Manns’ song, De Pascua Lama, has been chosen to represent Chile in the Festival de Vina del Mar 2011. The Pascua Lama mining project, located in the Andes south of Atacama, has been the source of controversy ever since Barrick Gold obtained permission.
PM: Think of it as almost equivalent to my life. My first songs are babbling questions, small musical pieces that try to say something without finding the right words. But as you progress through life, your understanding, your appreciation of things, changes. If you manage to achieve the power of your craft, those same songs, or their themes, will be much more reflective, more perceptive, expressed in greater depth. This depth did not exist before my exile experience. And that is fundamental for an analysis of my work. During my exile I saw the world, I saw people, I learned other languages, and I came into contact with another kind of music. I returned to Chile another person. The person who left Chile was stuck somewhere on the planet, and is now no longer necessary.
RW: What is the importance of the Nueva Canción today in Latin America, where socialist movements have gained strength?
PM: The original spirit of the Nueva Canción has been lost; the replacement generation has not yet appeared. And cultural policies do not facilitate its appearance. I feel I am an orphan in my work to conserve the premises and ideals of that movement, but I have continued to emphasise the importance of the Nueva Canción -- and this has made my work necessary.
RW: Did the Nueva Canción undergo any changes in its messages to the poblacion?
PM: I believe that in Latin America, song continues to develop. Although it seems to me that at times there are pauses. The vehemence and creativity of the past no longer exists, and many people of the Nueva Canción have died, people who today would be essential for its revival. Furthermore, there are concrete facts: singing to a triumphant movement is not the same as singing to a defeated movement. Triumphant movements inspire suspicion and mistrust toward the creator. Because it is an act in perpetual movement, its days are unpredictable.
RW: Is the Nueva Cancion universal? Would you say its message is relevant today within the West, where capitalism seems to be the order of the day?
PM: The Nueva Canciónes (of various countries) are universal. I receive people from all over the world several times a year, who ask me questions about the Nueva Canción, from Hong Kong to New York. The movement is still a political and cultural reference, at least in the West.
RW: How does the Nueva Canción explore society? The political through the social or vice-versa?
PM: The Nueva Canción has given extraordinary power to popular song, stripping away the residue of nostalgic memories and patriarchal shadows, replacing them with pride, perseverance and resistance – these are the materials we are working with. For example, right now in Chile the conditions exist for the revival of the Nueva Canción, if those who are called to revive it can perceive it in that way and understand the opportunity.