The Ghost of Victor Jara: A Beat Tape by Agent of Change| 11 October, 2015
Musicians from past generations often continue to inspire and guide us in the present, sometimes even many years after their passing. So it is with the Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, a visionary poet who realised the power of song to reach into the consciousness of the disenfranchised and the dispossessed. Jara used his music to raise social awareness and encourage people in the marginalised sectors of Chile to take a stand in determining their own destiny.
It’s therefore with great happiness we present this beat tape from London-based producer Agent of Change, who has sampled and remixed many of Jara’s tunes to create a new narrative through which the singer can reach contemporary audiences. Jara’s message continues to resonate loudly today, more than forty years after his death at the hands of General Pinochet’s military thugs. We’ll leave it to Agent of Change to tell the rest of the story.
Agent of Change says:
“An artist must be an authentic creator and in very essence a revolutionary… a man as dangerous as a guerrilla because of his great power of communication” – Victor Jara.
The legendary Chilean singer Victor Jara was one of the leaders of the Nueva Canción (New Song) movement – a movement based on socially-committed music; music that takes a clear stand for freedom, against poverty, against imperialism, against oppression. Nueva Canción spoke of the reality of the downtrodden, often incorporating indigenous musical themes, and in so doing gave voice to the millions of peasants, workers and indigenous peoples of Latin America who were being crushed under the weight of US dominance.
The date 11 September causes most people nowadays to think of the World Trade Centre attacks of 2001. However, for many, it will forever be remembered as the date on which, in 1973, the Chilean military overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende in a bloody coup. That coup, which brought the fascist Augusto Pinochet to power, was in large part coordinated by the CIA (Henry Kissinger is on record as saying: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”)
In the aftermath of the coup, thousands of socialists, communists and activists were taken hostage by the army and rounded up in Chile Stadium. Along with many others, Victor Jara was beaten and tortured; his hands were broken, but his resolve was not. When soldiers taunted him and told him to play something on his guitar, he played Venceremos (We Shall Triumph) — the campaign song of the 1970 election that had brought the socialist Salvador Allende to power. Four days later, Victor Jara was machine-gunned to death by soldiers in the stadium.
Across the world, Victor Jara is remembered as a hero and a martyr; an exemplary musician who put his skill and his passion at the service of the struggle for a better life for humanity. In commemorating his death and celebrating his life, we remember the principal lesson he teaches us: that culture is a weapon, one which must be wielded effectively in these times where oppression and repression are so prevalent. As Paul Robeson said, “The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery”.
This beat tape, which samples many of Victor Jara’s classic songs, aims to help spread the legacy of Victor Jara and connect it with a new generation of socially-committed music.
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