By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
With a musical career that spans almost half a century, Los Jaivas is one of the most important and influential bands of the past decades not only in Chile but also in South America. The group appeared in 1963 in the town of Viña del Mar, when the Parra brothers (Eduardo, Claudio y Gabriel), Eduardo “Gato” Alquinta and Mario Mutis joined together to form “The High & Bass” (some say that they took their name from their guitar amplifier, which had two knobs “high” and “bass”, while others argue that it refers to their members’ difference in height). At the beginning they played a kind of tropical and Caribbean mix in discotheques and became regulars at the parties and shows of their native region. Between 1969 and 1971, influenced by the Americanism ideals of the time, the musical genres in the vanguard and the appearance of such figures as Jimmy Hendrix, made their gigs so popular with their improvisation approach to music. They explored American music roots using native instruments and blending their sound with psychedelic rock and symphonic music. Into this new spirit of grapping western elements they changed their name into Los Jaivas (a “chileanized” pronunciation of “highbass”).
The concerts given during that experimental period and the soundtrack of a film that was never made were compiled in a series of five albums titled “La Vorágine” (“Pan negro”, “La reforma”, “El totem”, “Mucha inmensidad” and “Que hacer”). These recordings document the “prehistoric” stage of the band. In 1971 they recorded their first official album, “Los Jaivas” (known as “El Volantín” by the cover), which includes several improvisations and outlines of composition.
In 1972 appeared the single “Todos juntos”, a mix of Latin music and rock that shot them to fame. A success repeated with the following single “Mira, niñita”. This year they launched their second studio album titled “Los Jaivas” (known as “La Ventana” or “Todos juntos”), featuring both hits and new improvisations along the lines of the hippie culture they stuck to. In addition they took part in the mythical Festival de Piedra Roja (the “Chilean” Woodstock) and participated in the music of the movie “Palomita Blanca”, directed by Raul Ruiz, based upon the novel of Enrique Lafourcade, which would be released twenty years later, because of the upcoming dictatorship in Chile.
After the military coup of 1973 the band moved to the town of Zárate (Buenos Aires, Argentina) to live in community with themselves and their surroundings. Here, in collaboration with Brazilian song-writer Manduka, they released “Los sueños de América” (1974), including both formal composition and improvisations.
In 1975 their album “Los Jaivas” (known as “El Indio”) was a great success in Argentina, with songs such as “Pregón para iluminarse”, “La conquistada” and “Tarka y ocarina”. This is probably one of their most symphonic works and a key ingredient in shaping the band’s musical identity.
In 1976, new members joined the band and it was the turn of the single “Mambo de Machaguay”, followed by the album “Canción del sur” one year later. By this time the group had become very popular in Argentina and toured the country presenting symphonic concerts.
By the end of 1977 they moved to Paris and set off touring extensively through the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Germany during the following three years (1978-1980). Their most famous and most enduring album “Alturas de Machu Picchu” came to light in 1981, a sort of epic rock opera based upon Pablo Neruda’s “Canto General” published in 1950. The group pre-recorded the introduction in Paris and travelled to Chile and Peru to finish the score. A television special presented by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa accompanied the launch of this acclaimed work, which took the band (regarded as the “Chilean” Pink Floyd) to new levels of fame in Latin America and Europe after the album presentation tour.
In 1982, they released “Aconcagua”. This was followed by two live albums titled “Los Jaivas en Argentina” and “Los Jaivas en Moscú”. “Obras de Violeta Parra” appeared in 1984, a compilation of Violeta Parra’s songs adapted and transformed into symphonic works, which had been interpreted in 1980 for Radio France. In 1989 they launched “Si tú no estás”, a much more intimate album, which paid tribute to drummer Gabriel Parra who had died in a car accident the year before.
Then the group went through a long period of inactivity. Gabriel’s daughter, Juanita Parra, replaced her father on the drums and in 1995 a new album “Hijos de la tierra” was recorded. A year later the band returned to Chile, where they settled back down. In 1997 they gave a live concert with the participation of several artists, which was released as an album titled “El Reencuentro” featuring legendary figures such as Illapu, Congreso, Joe Vasconcellos, Eduardo Gatti and Argentinean singer-song-writer León Gieco. Their following work, “Mamalluca” (1999), is a dialogue between the group and the National Symphonic Orchestra, the Symphonic Choir of the University of Chile and the Mamalluca Choir, performing together Eduardo Parra’s poems.
Then they released a compilation of cuecas and tonadas (“En el Bar Restaurant ‘Lo que nunca se supo’”, 2000), the album “Arrebol” (2001) and a double CD with previous material from their entire career “Obras cumbres”. Eduardo Alquita, the band’s distinctive voice and guitarist, died in 2003 and shortly after new members joined the line-up. Since then the band has continued to tour the country performing live shows (“Los Jaivas en Rapa Nui”). In addition they have re-recorded old classics and released several compilations (“Alturas de Machu Picchu”, “Canción de amor”).
The band’s songs (from mere experiments to real anthem-like tracks such as “Todos juntos”) and its peculiar style of performance have been an influential source for several generations of musicians in Latin America. Los Jaivas’ mix of rock and folk music would later be emulated by such famous groups as Wara (Bolivia) giving birth to new artistic forms which would devote themselves to explore the fusion between native South American music and western patterns. Regardless of opinions and sympathies, Los Jaivas’s style is considered a milestone in Latin American musical history.
Los Jaivas, in Wikipedia.
Los Jaivas, in Chilean progressive music (page based upon a radio show).
Los Jaivas, in MúsicaPopular.cl [es].
Los Jaivas, in Enciclopedia del Rock Chileno [es].
Los Jaivas, in Rock Clásico Latino [es].
Official website [es].
Page on Facebook [es].
Complete discography [Taringa.net] [es].
Video 01. “Mira niñita”.
Video 02. “Sube a nacer conmigo, hermano” (“Alturas de Machu Picchu” original video, presented by Mario Vargas Llosa) [es].
Video 03. “Todos juntos” (live).
Video 04. “La poderosa muerte” (“Alturas de Machu Picchu” original video).
Video 05. “Piedra Roja”.
Video 06. “Mambo de Machaguay” (live).
Video 07. “Pregón para iluminarse” (live).
Video 08. “Hijos de la tierra” (live).