Inti-Illimani | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Inti-Illimani 

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INTI-ILLIMANI

The politics that spawned Inti-Illimani--and that subsequently exiled the band and energized its music--may have changed, but the music retains much of its soaring impact even 30 years later. In the 60s, the music known as nueva cancion ("new song") leapt across Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, and Peru, spreading an age-old political agenda: the rejection of injustice and inequity as the inevitable fate of the poor and powerless. Inti-Illimani, formed in 1967 by six college students from Santiago, gave this movement its most enduring boost. Their music flourished under the popular government of Salvador Allende, one of whose mottoes proclaimed, "There can be no revolution without songs." But they spent most of the 70s and 80s out of the country: on tour as Chilean cultural ambassadors, they found themselves marooned when Allende and his administration fell to Pinochet's coup in 1973. (From its European base, the band dubbed its 15 years abroad "the longest tour in history.") Inti-Illimani's expatriation helped raise the international profile of both its music and its politics; when the band finally returned to Chile, it had become the voice of nueva cancion for much of the world. In exile, the musicians first explored other cultures to spur their artistic growth; later they reaffirmed the aboriginal roots of their music--from Andean song forms and rhythms to indigenous instruments such as panpipes and various guitars--the sounds of which are as evocative as the ponchos Inti-Illimani once wore in every publicity photo. Clarinet and saxophone are now part of the mix, and as of the group's latest album Arriesgare la piel ("I will risk my skin," on Xenophile), its members now number eight. But five of the original six members remain, including the musical director and main composer, Horacio Salinas. Although they offer little in the way of English translation, the power of their mountain melodies and fervent vocals hardly requires it. Friday, 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-929-5959 or 773-525-7793. Sunday, 7 PM, College of DuPage Arts Center, 22nd and Lambert, Glen Ellyn; 630-942-4000. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Inti-Illimani by Stephen Homer.

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