I’ve known the members of The Melodic since we met quite randomly in the centre of Marrakech seven years ago and have remained great friends ever since; me and [The Melodic band member] Huw Williams both studied at Leeds University together. Three years ago, when I first heard The Melodic perform ‘Ode to Victor Jara’, I became inspired to create a piece of moving image with the same intent, passion and politics that first brought the band to write and play the song. The sounds and imagery conjured up by the song’s narrative and the eclectic mix of instruments and rhythms sparked a strong vision for how the song could be translated visually.
The idea was then slowly conceived over three years alongside intense periods of model making and research, which finally came to a head over the last month. With a tight deadline, quick intuitive prop-making, strong teamwork, and a two person animating/film crew (with a high-level of perseverance and no first-hand experience) the video was created.
I was lent an old copy of Joan Jara’s ‘Victor: An unfinished Song’ which I found moving and a poignant epilogue to Victor’s life and work. This provided a founding knowledge, which I was able to expand on using online resources, to research Victor’s legacy regarding the group Inti Illimani, Quilapayún and the Nueva Cancion Chilena (New Chilean Song) movement. Watching Patrico Guzman’s films, ‘The Battle of Chile’ and more recent ‘Nostalgia for the Light’, helped in gaining an understanding of the wider historical and political context surrounding Victor, the coup and post-Allende Chile. I collect vast amounts of pictures when collating research for any art project, so the film references images from Inti-Illimani album covers, Chilean protest artwork and slogans, local handicrafts, Andiean sculpture, pattern and folklore as well as landmarks such as the UNESCO costal town of Valparaíso.
One of the main intentions of the Nueva Canción movement was the renewel of folk traditions – something both I and The Melodic believe in too. Through the use of the marionette, old-fashioned toys, recycled materials and fabric, woodcarving and metalwork; Andean as well as European craft is combined and reinvented to portray a political message for a contemporary audience. The Arpilleras, three-dimensional appliqué textiles from Latin America (a basis for the villagers in the film) actually became a political tool for women to speak against Pinochet’s regime. The inclusion of ‘¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!’ (the people, united, will never be defeated!) directly references a widely used slogan and lyric of Quilapayún, a musical ensemble that Victor supported and worked closely with.
Victor had an extensive career in many areas of the arts and social activism, including theatre, dance and music. The idea that practicing creative arts should also involve political conviction is one I’d definitely share with Victor Jara.
By Nathan Thanki and Asad Rehman.
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