Music of the Sun God, Inti Illimani

on Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I present to you, Inti Illimani, a group of Chilean engineering students and part-time musicians who became their country's de facto musical ambassadors and spokespersons when their country entered a dark period of its history. The group was established in 1967, consisting of students from Universidad T├ęcnica del Estado in Santiago, Chile and will celebrate 40 amazing years in 2007. They were on tour in Europe in 1973 when President Allende was deposed by General Pinochet. In the subsequent chaos, many of the members had friends and relatives who were arrested and some were never seen again including their friend and national musical icon Victor Jara. (It is reported that Victor Jara was executed in the stadium that today bears his name. He was machine-gunned and had over 70 bullets in his body).

In fear of their own lives, they lived in exile in Italy but continued to develop their music and to rally for a return to democracy in Chile. They rapidly gained recognition for both. To this end, Horacio Salinas was the group’s musical director while the political compass was provided by Jorge Coulon. Sadly, after all these years, the group split in 2001, Salinas and two others left and started another band while the two Coulon brothers remained and rebuild their band. Unfortunately, both continue to call themselves Inti Illimani but most fans recognise Salinas’ band as the historical band.

The name means “Sun of the Mountain” or “Sun God” and is actually a Bolivian name. This was an early indication that they musically were not going to be bound by Chilean music traditions only. Indeed these engineer-musicians, have combined their different disciplines and experimented with the physics of sound and were even awarded honorary degrees in music for their efforts. They also sought to combine instruments from different traditions to create new sounds. For example, in one of their pieces, they combine a Persian instrument with the African colimba and an antique Andean flute. They were the forerunners of World Music before it became fashionable.

I was first exposed to the group when they recorded the soundtrack for a BBC documentary entitled the “Flight of the Condor” way back in 1982. That was the first time I had listened to the use of Andean pan flutes in an haunting and evocative orchestral arrangement. Over the years, I occasionally got to hear one or other of their projects but for the most part, I had little access to their music.

Then in 1992, they came to Ottawa while I was a student there. I was ecstatic. Future wife and I went to see them in concert. It was a cold winter’s night and the journey to the venue was far but it was entirely worth it. Seeing them in person made me realize that they were more than musicians but musical scholars. We were treated not just to a concert but a laboratory of sound. There was one song performed entirely out of the beating of ordinary packing crates. There was another in which the band faded off by a deliberate and measured drop in sound level carried out in unison. Sure, fade outs are done all the time with the help of electronic equipment but when you hear it done manually, you know you are in the presence of extraordinary musicians. They also dazzled us with an array of over 30 wind, string and percussion instruments from around the world.

Once again, I have used too many words when I should let the music speak for itself. Enjoy the videos and the music tracks. Illi Intimani, congratulations on 40 years and may your tradition of music scholarship continue to another generation.

Song with African Kalimba

A modern song with traditional Andean instruments

Beautiful vocals - one of their big hits and one of my favorites

A very traditional folk piece


East of Oregon said...

very beautiful music:)

my backyard said...

Very nice music!

Le Nightowl said...

I enjoyed reading about the background of this group.
I particularly enjoyed the first two songs, LGS.
Wonderful music that took me far away for a few precious minutes.
I love Andean flute, it reminded me of a group I used to listen to, Los Incas.

Anonymous said...

Very pretty music. A lot of talent, which I love.

Rock music's version of this group would likely be The Blue Man Group. Have you heard of them? We have seen their show in Chicago and when they were on tour we also seen them in Cleveland. Very talented group of guys making music with pipes, drums and other instruments.

A.J.Reams said...

Interesting story and the music is beautiful! Even my 10 year old daughter stopped what she was doing to come over and see what I was listening to.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

east of oregon & my backyard,

Glad you like the music.

Now if you would kindly chip in to my holiday fund, I can go to Chile or Bolivia and give you up-to date photos too!!?!

le nightowl,
Thanks. I enjoyed writing about them. I'm not a radical or anything but I really dislike right-wing dictatorships and so I am drawn to groups like this that lobby peacefully for justice and change.

I know Los Incas too. They're more traditional I think. Ah, the Andean flute, who would have thought that a few hollow tubes could make such heavenly music! Anyway, glad you're back. Been missing you last week.

Glad you like it. I have heard of The Blue Man Group but I 've ony seen clips of their work on TV and never a full concert. They do look like fun and surprisingly innovative music too. I'd like to see them if I can in concert.

aj reams,
Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I am thrilled that you and your daughter likes it. I am enchanted with the music....maybe one day I'll learn Spanish so that I can enjoy the lyrics too!!! lol.

Dave said...

Some good music ther LGS! I especially enjoyed the Song with African Kalimba ... SOmething about African Music... Have you ever listened to Paul Simon's CD Graceland?

Sorry I haven't commented on your recent blog about your experience... I want to read it once more since I have been dealing with a raging headache today and have had difficulty concentrating on anything more than 3 words. I will get back to it as soon as I get well. I DO enjoy your blog and do not like missing out on your pieces! :-)

Le Nightowl said...

I haven't really been away... :)
Not posting or commenting much, but still reading daily my fav blogs :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Graceland is in my music collection. Yes, I would like to learn more about African music too. Hope you feel better soon.

le nightowl,
miss you all the same.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I love these guys. They would come to Venice Beach California, where I lived before Denver, and play a couple times a year. They are amazing, amazing.

Thanks for reminding me of their beauty.

...Kat said...

I so enjoyed the Music!

speaking of South American instrumentalists... do you know of Los Indios Trabajaras? from long ago.

Dave said...

Hey LGS ... that was one hilarious Queen music vdeo! LOL Thanks!

Janice said...

Frog leaped from Tai's blog...well Mr. Lone Grey Squirrel I have seen you in a few places now and thought I'd best check your blog...what wonderful posts! your latest post the Chilean group have remarkable talent though I am a wee bit biased when it comes to flutes :)
This was a most informative post and I shall be back to read more.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hi claudia,
They are amazing. Seeing them perform live is truly a thrill.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I suspected you liked world music from some of your previous post. As for Los Indios Trabajaras,I regret I know of them but have never really had a chance to listen to them. My older Brother used to have a vinyl record of them.

welcome to my humble blog. Thanks for the visit & kind remarks. Look forward to hearing from you again.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

sorry I skipped you. Glad you liked the video. Music courtesy of Weird Al.

Anonymous said...

hola, te escribo desde chile.
donde puedo encontrar el cd de inti illimani ORIGINAL "return of the condor"?


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