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Chilean folk singer Victor Jara featured in new book on world protest songs

British author of the book says the chapter on Jara was the most emotional for him to write.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011  
“I can only compare it with heroes of music like [Nigerian singer and human rights activist], Fela K “I can only compare it with heroes of music like [Nigerian singer and human rights activist], Fela Kuti.

His powerful folk songs helped to redefine Chilean music and culture in the 1970s and now Victor Jara has been recognized in a new book dedicated to protest songs from around the world.

 

An entire chapter of 33 Revolutions per minute: A history of protest songs is devoted to the singer and political activist who played a pivotal role in establishing the New Chilean Song Movement.

 

A supporter of President Salvador Allende, Jara was tortured and killed soon after the military coup in September 1973 before being buried in Santiago's general cemetery.

 

Written by British journalist and music critic, Dorian Lynskey, 33 Revolutions per minute examines the stories behind 33 of the most enduring protest songs from around the world.

 

The book features tunes from big name artists like Woody Guthrie, U2 and Public Enemy but according to Lynskey, the chapter on Jara had the biggest impact.

 

“It was the most emotional section [of the book] to write,” he told La Tercera.

 

In his chapter on Jara, Lynskey chose to focus on Manifiesto, one of the last songs the folk singer wrote before his death.

 

The chapter begins with an anecdote from U.S. singer Phil Ochs, who visited Chile in 1971.

 

After seeing Jara playing the guitar on the street, Ochs commented to his friends: “In comparison with what [Jara] does, [U.S. folk singer] Pete Seeger and I are nothing”.

 

This conviction stayed with Ochs and he managed to convince Bob Dylan and Dennis Hopper to join him in a benefit concert for Chile held in New York in May 1974.

 

According to Lynskey, the stand that Jara took continues to set him apart in music history.

 

“With all that Jara had to go through, suddenly the adversities faced by North American singers seem insignificant,” Lynskey told La Tercera.

 

“I can only compare it with heroes of music like [Nigerian singer and human rights activist], Fela Kuti.

 

“In Jara's case, it is his biography that attracts people from outside South America. Manifiesto is so much more powerful once you know what happened after he recorded it.”

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