Inti-Illimani and Los Jaivas: the parallel paths of two essential bands

Although their beginnings and creative spheres were different, the paths of Inti-Illimani and Los Jaivas, inescapable bands in the history of Chilean popular music, crossed paths at some point in Europe back in the days when they tried to make a living from the activity. Same thing with other groups like Quilapayún or Illapu, marked by the rigor of exile. “It was not easy to find each other because when one was playing on one side, the others could be in different places. Jorge Coulon, from Inti-Illimani, remembers about those years of camaraderie in the old world.

But still, there were some gaps. “We did three seasons at the Teatro de la Ville -the musician recalls-. One played two weeks in a row in a program that was from 6 to 7 in the afternoon, for people who left the offices. So we played the concerts and then we had all the rest of the time to ourselves. It was the moment when we met the rest; I remember very well a meeting in the house of Los Jaivas, with Isabel Parra, which was very crazy because a musical euphoria began to mount, it was a very nice meeting, it marked us”.

At that time she was a girl, but the drummer of Los Jaivas, Juanita Parra, still remembers some of those musical encounters in the large Les Gycines mansion that housed the entire clan. “I remember Isabel who sang a lot with us, as well as the meetings with Pato Castillo, a great Chilean musician who played with Quilapayún and also participated a lot with Jaivas.. Also with Illapu who lived in France; With them I remember more often going to the house for a drink, sharing more familiar instances”.

Today, both bands, which have more than half a century of experience, albums, trips and hardships, meet on stage. To their joint concert scheduled for next May 6, at the Caupolicán Theater, they have just added a new date for sales success; thus, both sets will also perform on the 4th of the same monthwhen the end to the restriction of capacity for cultural shows is already in force. “The concert on the 6th has to be done with the capacity that existed before this resolution, so, among other things, a new concert is added because it will be with free capacity”Coulon explained.

From her sidewalk, Juanita puts in context the importance of the San Diego street venue, where she herself had the chance to play during the album tour Children of the Earth (1995), once integrated into the group. “It is a very important stage, very charming, because the people are upstairs, the public almost surrounds you. And when two groups like ours have been musicalizing the history of a country for so long and are now coming out of such a difficult moment for culture worldwide, what better way to do it than to do it hand in hand with other fellow musicians”.

But beyond the encounter on stage and off it, both bands, from their different trajectories (the Inti linked to the New Chilean Song and the viñamarinos to the Latin American fusion with rock overtones), have generated a mutual admiration that they say, it has strengthened over the years. That’s what Juanita Parra thinks. “(Inti-Illimani) are partners with whom one has been building the music of a country, they have been more powerful in their wordsvery committed to their people and that is recognized in their songs. They are also like a musical box of instruments that are mixed, they opened borders and made known the music of our country that has a lot of value for the new generations”.

For his part, Jorge Coulon highlights the musicality of the people of Viña del Mar and their proposal for community life as the most admirable elements. “Los Jaivas is a legendary institution in the broadest sense of the word, but it is also a musical revolution as well; the proposal that they launched several decades ago had such force that it was like a Big Bang. It is not strange that they have survived all this time due to the enormous power of their proposal”.

And although he is asked about those years in which those of All together they were accused of being apolitical and of not expressing enough political commitment, Coulon remarks that for him this was not a problem. “Not at all, I think you have to separate shots as well; The first commitment of Los Jaivas and ours too, is with music, with art. That one faces it from different levels, of militancy or active participation, if you want, is another story. But no one can claim more or less artistic merit for being more or less committed. I believe that we are all committed to humanity. The Jaivas have been militants of respect for the native peoples, the Mapuche people for example”.

An idea that Juanita also highlights. “We have a great commitment to the first nations, a respect for the trutrucas, the kultrún, the ancestral rhythms that are part of our music. Every time we sound a trutruca it is with that force”.

Both prefer to highlight the path as groups that have reinvented themselves and have even survived blows as strong as the death of members and the tensions that have marked internal breakdowns. “Los Jaivas has always been a tribal experience, in that sense, in some way, we Chileans have participated and have suffered the family tragedies that they have had.losses, Juanita’s father, the Alquinta Cat -Coulon points out-. We have had a journey from another origin, but there is a course, there is an essence that has been maintained, which is to be part, involuntarily, of a national identification. That surrounds us all.”