Francesca Ancarola - Lonquén: Tribute to Víctor Jara
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Francesca Ancarola
Lonquén: Tribute to Víctor Jara
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Lonquén is a rural settlement in Isla de Maipo, Chile, the site of abandoned limestone ovens where the charred, splintered remains of 15 peasants-disappeared in 1973 after the September 11 military coup-were exhumed on November 30, 1978. This repugnant, tragic discovery marked the beginning of the unraveling of a bloody web of institutional lies and brutality, an early waning of the long shadow cast over Chile by General Augusto Pinochet, whose fascist inspiration was Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

Lonquén is Chilean singer-composer-arranger Francesca Ancarola's interpretation of and tribute to Chilean nueva canción singer Víctor Jara (the lyrical conscience of a worldwide generation), one of many who were rounded up in the wake of the coup and herded into the national stadium to meet their end. The regime murdered Jara, but despite a prohibition on his recordings, lifted only in 1989, it couldn't kill his music, or its animating spirit.

Among the Jara songs Ancarola essays is "El lazo," a stark rendering of poverty, strength, and human dignity the singer detected in observing the handwork of one old man in Lonquén. The title song, the only Ancarola composition, opens the album with a counterpoint to Jara's portrait of Lonquén, where, it seems that, even with the dictatorship's self-destruction, little has changed in sociological terms. Jara was a poet, troubadour, and prophet of the Chilean masses, and as Ancarola observes, "Víctor's art emerges inexorably from his humble origin in a country marked by class differences."

Coming of age under the shadow of dictatorship, and fascinated with music from an early age, Ancarola graduated from the University of Chile, won a Fulbright, and went on to do a master's in classical voice and opera at the Manhattan School of Music; she also studied jazz guitar, cello and piano. Based in Santiago, she also runs a noted vocal workshop, a number of whose Taller Vocal members hold forth here. Backing in folk-rock-jazz mode are Federico Danneman (guitar, cuatro), Carlos Aguirre (keyboards), Rodrigo Galarce (acoustic bass), and Daniel Rodríguez (percussion).

Apart from Jara and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, whose "Poema 15" Ancarola salutes with a superb, lingering composition with decidedly Andalusian undertones. Drawing from the latter's 1923 poetry collection, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, her acknowledged influences (among them Brazilian acoustic guitarist Toninho Horta, Joni Mitchell, Milton Nascimento, and Violeta Parra) are evident. But in a country where certain sectors still despise Jara and his legacy (pace this recording's support by the Víctor Jara Foundation and the Chilean government's Fund for Music), Ancarola represents an original, passionate, and compelling voice, and this is a timely recording, not least for those denied easy access to the poetic idealism that informed the Allende era. As another Latin American social visionary and martyr observed, in an ongoing struggle for social justice for the many, not the few, "Hasta la victoria siempre." - Michael Stone

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"Cante Libre"

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