Sunday, September 12, 2010

Victor Jara: my guitar is not for the rich

On this day (12 September) in 1973, the Chilean folk singer Victor Jara was arrested by the military and taken to the Chile Stadium. The day before, a right wing military coup had deposed Salvador Allende's Popular Unity government.

Jara was one of thousands of leftists rounded up, tortured and killed in the aftermath of the US-backed coup. He was apparently shot dead in the stadium - where over the years he had sung many times - on the 15 September.

One of the last songs he wrote was Manifiesto. As his widow Joan Jara recalled in her book 'Victor: an unfinished song':

'during those weeks Victor was composing one which he felt that he had to write before it was too late, to express his reason for singing. He was quiet as he worked on it, introverted and withdrawn. I could hear him singing gently in the workshop as I worked in the house. Then he came to call me to ask me to listen to it. Although it was a very beautiful song, my heart contracted as he sang it to me. I knew that
Victor was writing his testament.

I don't sing for love of singing,
or because I have a good voice.
I sing because my guitar
has both feeling and reason.
It has a heart of earth
and the wings of a dove,
it is like holy water,
blessing joy and grief.
My song has found a purpose
as Violeta would say.
Hardworking guitar,
with a smell of spring.

My guitar is not for the rich no,
nothing like that.
My song is of the ladder
we are building to reach the stars.
For a song has meaning
when it beats in the veins
of a man who will die singing,
truthfully singing his song.

My song is not for fleeting praise
nor to gain foreign fame,
it is for this narrow country
to the very depths of the earth.
There, where everything comes to rest
and where everything begins,
song which has been brave song
will be forever new.
('Manifesto')

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