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Classic group Andean music
Land of winds > Perfomers > Classic group | Issue 03. Jan.-Feb.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza


There is little published on the emblematic group Jatari (in Quechua, “¡Stand up!”). The following lines are extracted from the group’s presentation on their album “El grito de libertad” (1976):
In the mid-sixties the cultural movement known as New Song swept through Latin America, forged by Víctor Jara, Violeta Parra and her son Ángel and daughter Isabel, the Quilapayún and others in Chile; Daniel Viglietti and others in Uruguay; The Experiemntal Sound Collective in Cuba, Judith Reyes and others in Mexico, etc. The counterpart in Ecuador is a group known as Jatari, who since 1971 have worked to bring their country into this great musical current.
The group was born during the very period when their country had begun to have visions of becoming an important oil exporter, raising it economically from its traditional dependence on the export of bananas. The natural mineral resources were discovered and, parallel to that, Jatari began to initiate the rescue of the nation’s cultural resources. They warned that in a country as economically dependent as their own, the development of an oil economy might foster the development of an oil culture as well. This could mean the undermining of roots and values inherent in the traditional culture, bringing with it the imposition of customs foreign to the sensibilities and reality of Ecuadorians, and the very real danger of the cultural genocide which results from wiping out the personality of a people.
Jatari initiated investigation and collection of indigenous song material after taking a course in the Ecuadorian Institute of Folklore. Their on-going relations with workers have made it possible for the group to learn traditional songs as well as to find themes which they could develop into new songs with social content. In the face of the cultural invasion (which developed as they had predicted), Jatari provided the inspiration for new groups to develop through their School of Native Music, and they have helped structure Cantavida, the Organization for People’s Art. They also organised the first gathering of people’s singers in their country, presentations in Union Halls, colleges, and at large neighbourhood festivals. They have released three long-playing records through their own efforts, which embody the four years of their work. In these records one can hear the many folk instruments they have helped to revitalize [ocarina, pingullo, dulzaina, bocina].
Through their investigations and studies, and a journey to perform and to observe other musicians in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, Jatari was able to explain how the various other instruments indigenous to the continent have found their way to Ecuador. These other instruments are sometimes used by Jatari to demonstrate the cultural unity of all Latin America [charango, quena, tarka, zampoña, pinkillo, cuatro, tiple, bombo].
Jatari’s analysis of Ecuadorian music, its relation to the historical processes of Latin America, its ideological content, their commitment to the workers’ movement and other popular struggles in their country, have matured their work immensely.
The original line-up (Carlos and Patricio Mantilla, Rodrigo Robalino and Ataúlfo Tobar) split up at some time in the 80s, and it was not until 2001 that the band restarted with new musicians (Enrique Sánchez, Marcelo Rodríguez, Héctor Noroña and Javier Hurtado) under the leadership of one of its creators and first voice, Patricio Montilla.
According to the Asociación de Músicos Andinos Populares de Ecuador (AMAPE, Association of Andean Folk Musicians of Ecuador), the group has released a total of seventeen LPs including “Jatari” (1973), “El grito de libertad” (1976), “Canción ecuatoriana” (1977), “Ekuador” (1977), “La flor del café” (1978), “Tiempo adelante” (1981), “Canto vital” (1981) and “La música folklórica de Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Perú y Venezuela” (1981).
It is worth mentioning the band’s ethno musical samples from a wide and fruitful research work recollecting their musical roots and traditions: “La Venada”, “Ananay”, “Nuca llama”, “Coplas del Carnaval de Ligto” and “Chimbalito”; well knonw songs from the Latin American folklore such as the Bolivian taquirari “Boquita de cereza”, the Venezuelan joropo “Canto del agua” and the morenada “La mariposa”; airs from the altiplano such as the jach’a sikuri “Mi raza” (also performed in those days by the Chilean group Kamak Pacha Inti); true hymns of the New Song like “El aparecido” by Víctor Jara (dedicated to Che Guevara) and “Canción de cuna para despertar a un negrito” by Nicolás Guillén; and, of course, compositions of their own imbued with political discontentment and social idealism played in the rhythm of tarkeadas, danzantes, albazos, cuecas or bombas from the Chota.
Jatari were among the pioneers in collecting and disseminating native singing and music and sometimes used them to denounce or to satirize perceived social injustices in their society. Basically something that as a last resort folk singing has been and will continue doing: remind us that all peoples hold within their communities both joys and sorrows.

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