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Classic group Andean music
Land of winds > Perfomers > Classic group | Issue 01. Jul.-Aug.2010
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Illapu
Illapu (from Aymara term illapu or illapa, “lightning”) born in 1971 in Antofagasta, in Chilean Norte Grande. The initial line-up consisted of Márquez Bugueño brothers. The band started out as a commercial ensemble named “Los Quintos”, however, augmented by multi-instrumentalist and composer Osvaldo Torres, the group kept in touch with Andean music, especially Aymara. Since then Illapu focused its career on collecting and disseminating pre-range and Andean music of their birthplace.
This way began the musical journey of one of the most representative bands in Chile. Along the way Illapu went through all different musical traditions of the Andes, gradually found its way into Latin American Nueva Canción with political and social complaint songs, and later achieved a perfect fusion of styles and musical patterns which was to become Illapu’s hallmark. With lyrics full of poetry, brilliant instrumental work, excellent voice arrangements and a strong link to their people problems and their northern roots, the band would leave an indelible stamp on its followers’ memory.
The year of its foundation, Illapu took part in several festivals near Antofagasta such as the ones celebrated in María Elena or Calama cities. In 1972 its members temporally moved to Santiago de Chile looking for better opportunities and recorded their first album, “Música Andina”, including “Tarkeadas” and “Flor del desierto” traditional tracks, but also committed lyrics as in “Manos obreras” or “Milonga para nuestros tiempos”, where it is notorious the influence of, at that time, famous Inti-Illimani and Quilapayún.
Next year they came back to the capital and toured several cities. The tour closed at the Viña del Mar Festival, where they got audience and critic attention alike. Featuring new recruit, Eric Maluenda, Illapu’s second album “Chungará” (originally “Illapu”, 1975) was promoted while touring Europe, containing very old and traditional songs like “Saludo chiapa” and “Ayquina”, and fabulous samples of classical music such as “Czardas” and “Swan Lake”. In those years they traveled to the Chilean high plains in search of ancient traditions in their places of origin (e.g. arriving in Isluga, where they offered a recital that would be included in their 2005 DVD “Illapu 33”), and with the Conjunto Folklórico de la Universidad Católica del Norte collaborated in the assembly and recording of autochthonous shows (as “Carnaval en el desierto”).
In 1976, when the group went back to Santiago after touring Bolivia, Illapu released “Despedida del pueblo” (see) and took part in Nicaraguan Hernaldo Zúñiga’s first album. In 1997 is the turn for “Raza brava” with well-known tracks such as “Amigo”, “El Cascabel” and “Amalia Rosa”, the impressive “Atacameños” and “Cantos ceremoniales” instrumental works, and the Violeta Parra’s song “Paloma ausente”. One year later the band launched “Canto vivo” which included a couple of great hits, “Las obreras” and “Cacharpaya del Pasiri”, several traditional pieces of music (“Tambo quemado”, Greda roja”) and songs closer to the Nueva Canción repertoire (“Está naciendo un cantor”). At that time Illapu won the Alerce prize for the best musical activity and was awarded with the Laurel de Oro, and took an active part in the shows “Encuentro con las raíces” and “Canto en el tiempo” (both of them with lyrics by Osvaldo Torres).
At the end of that decade they created the cantata titled “El grito de la raza” mixing theatre, dance and poetry, and dedicated to Chilean First Nations. In 1981, after recording “El canto de Illapu” (with social complaints such as “Lo mío se va perdiendo” and “Aunque los pasos toquen”, stunning instrumental tracks such as “Condorcanqui” and “Labradores, and popular songs as “Carnaval de Chiapa”), a law-ranking decree signed by dictator Augusto Pinochet banned Illapu from entering Chile after touring Europe and the United States (with several shows in France and a live concert recording at the Theatre de la Villa in 1980). The Home Office described them as “Marxist activists with a role in the campaign to discredit Chile abroad”, what forced them to go into exile in France.
Their recording of “De libertad y amor” (1984), with the famous and emblematic song of the same name and some others on the same or similar subjects (“Un día borraré esta página”, “Puerto rico, puerto pobre”) brought a robust political and social dimension to their ever-expanding store of traditional and contemporary songs. Along the lines of their ideological commitment they also composed the soundtrack for the films “Y es nuestra” (1982), “Los muros de Santiago” (1983) and “La guerra de los mayas”.
In 1985 they moved to Mexico D.F., where the band brought in bass singing voice and electric bass player Carlos Elgueta, and broadened its repertoire to include a variety of Central American tune types.
In 1986 they released “Para seguir viviendo” containing the song of the same name dedicated to the young photographer Rodrigo Rojas De Negri, burnt to death in Santiago after facing police repression. Other tracks included in this recording are also in tune with Illapu’s disapproval of wrong or illegal procedures: “Se están quedando solos”, “Cuarto reino, cuarto Reich”, “Paloma, vuela de nuevo”, “Ganaremos la alegría” or “Arrurrú la faena”.
In 1988, after launching “Divagaciones” (featuring old instrumental works), Illapu went back to Chile and gave a moving concert in support of the “No” campaign (those calling for a “no” vote in the upcoming plebiscite, where Chilean people were asked to vote “yes” or “no” to eight more years of military rule by General Augusto Pinochet and the Chicago Boys), which would be immortalized in the live album “Parque La Bandera” (1989).
In 1991 they released “Vuelvo amor... Vuelvo vida” containing the breakthrough single “Vuelvo para vivir” that would become not only a chart success but also an anthem for Chilean people, and would prove the band’s heady upward progress. The album included future famous tracks such as “Baila, caporal” or the Mexican huapango “Balajú” alongside those with clear political content such as “Tres versos para una historia”, “Ya quisieran por olvido” or “Escribo, por ejemplo”. The band won its first Gold Record and Illapu was awarded the prize as “Grupo más popular del año”.
The work titled “En estos días” was to appear two years later, and the song “Lejos del amor” would spend 46 weeks in the chart. This recording blended instrumental compositions (“Cariquima”, “Bailando en Isluga”) and lyrics full of poetry as in the song “Volarás”, whose videoclip would be recorded in 1994 with guest José Miguel Márquez Bugueño (notched flutes), who had left the group for a decade to study music in Germany (where he released two solo albums: “Sonidos” and “Puentes”). In those years they also compiled several instrumental pieces on “De sueños y esperanzas” and in 1995 presented the album “Multitudes”, probably one of the few recordings to feature songs on social and controversial issues. Tracks such as “Sincero positivo” (on AIDS), “Quién te salvará”, “Hagamos un pacto” or “Que broten las palabras” lent a contemporary side to their work that is sometimes overlook. The band won a few more prizes and went on touring through their country and around the world. In 1997, EMI-Odeón launched a compilation album titled “Sereno” featuring Illapu’s best instrumental works.
Next year, the incomparable “Morena esperanza” recording displayed the developed maturity of the band’s sound. Dedicated to Aída Bugueño, Márquez brothers’ mother, the album brought in new sounds and graceful rhythms that would enlarge their repertoire. Remarkable tracks on this recording are “Morena esperanza” and “Bío bío, sueño azul”, the latter featuring the renowned Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf. The new century saw them presenting “Momentos vividos”, a compilation of live songs from different concerts with guests including Pablo Milanés and Víctor Heredia, plus the track “Si queremos” performed for the first time. Soon after came the release of another compilation “Antología 1972-1982”, containing a good number of hits, and the group relaunched “El grito de la raza”.
In 2002, with the album “Illapu”, the group took another step forward interweaving traditional instrumentation with drums and synthesizers. The most deserving tracks are the single “Ojos de niño”, the cover of “Plegaria de un labrador” (Víctor Jara’s song) and “Declárase responsable”, dedicated to Augusto Pinochet. At the end of that year Illapu announces that they were moving again to Mexico and in February of 2003, when the band set off for the Central American country, Eric Maluenda gave up his membership. A couple of years were to pass before the release of “Illapu 33” CD-DVD, celebrating more than three decades in the business. Maluenda died in October 2005 and immediately after Illapu returned to Chile. The album “Vivir es mucho más”, the last till the present, was launched before the year-end, including new and original songs and a wink to the past, “Montilla”, a Venezuelan tune belonging to their early repertoire.
To conclude this review of Illapu’s musical career it is worth mentioning the DVD titled “Illapu vivo” (2008), recorded during their performances at the sold-out Oriente and Cariola theatres in Santiago de Chile.

NOTE: The name of the group is usually linked to a Quechua legend. Either in Quechua or in Aymara “lightning” is illapa, however, Aymara is the only language that also accepts the term illapu. In addition, Aymara (not Quechua) is the common language in Northern Chile, the place where Marquez Bugueño brothers, the band’s founders, come from.

Official website [es]
Recordings (official) [es]
Complete recordings and membership, in Wikipedia [es]
CDs: Perrerac.org & Illapu.narod.ru
[Video 01] [Video 02] [Video 03] [Video 04]
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