By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
Recognized for his multi-faceted prolific career as a musician and literary figure, Patricio Manns was born in 1937 in the municipality of Nacimiento (Bío-Bío region, central-southern part of Chile). Both his parents played the piano and were itinerant primary school teachers. Manns took up a broad range of occupation in his youth from coal miner in Lota to reporter for the daily newspaper “La Patria” in Concepción to radio trainer in María Elena, in the depths of the Atacama Desert.
In the early 60s he moved to Santiago where he continued his journalistic work and managed to get in contact with the capital’s music scene through the group Los Cuatro Cuartos, an outstanding example of the so-called “neo-folklore”. Writer, poet and musician, Manns joined the intellectual and artistic circles attending the gatherings at the famous Peña de Carmen 340, later known as the Peña de los Parra, which laid the groundwork for the Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song) movement. Here he met Rolando Alarcón, the Parras (Violeta Parra’s children, Isabel and Ángel Parra), and Víctor Jara and performed the handful of works he had composed up to that time. With one of them, “Arriba en la cordillera”, he achieved national fame, especially after it was included on his first album, “Entre mar y cordillera” (1966), which became a massive success. One year later he recorded the cantata “El Sueño Americano” with the folk group Voces Andinas and in 1968, with Silvia Urbina, revived traditional folkloric forms which were disappearing under the influence of foreign musical trends launching the album “¡El folklore no ha muerto, mierda!”, which was followed by “La hora final” (1969).
In 1971 he recorded “Patricio Manns”, which was arranged by Luis Advis (who wrote the Cantata “Santa María de Iquique”) and accompanied by accompanied by Inti-Illimani, the Symphony Orchestra of Chile and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Santiago. The recording includes some of his best known compositions, “Valdivia en la niebla” and “No cierres los ojos”.
After the military coup in 1973, Manns settled in Cuba and then travelled to France where he formed the ensemble Karaxú (1974) and again took up his literary career. At that time he released “Canción sin límites” (1977) featuring some songs recorded together with the Symphony Orchestra of Cuba. In 1979 he moved to Switzerland and launched “Cuando me acuerdo de mi país”. During the years of exile Manns established a fruitful collaboration with Horacio Salinas and the group Inti-Illimani (exiled in Italy), which formally began when Manns’ compositions “Vuelvo” and “Sambalandó” were included on Inti-Illimani’s “Canción para matar una culebra” (1979). Later on his songs “El equipaje del destierro” and “Palimpsesto” were to be included on “Palimpsesto” (1981), while “Cantiga de la memoria rota” would appear on the album “De canto y baile” (1986). The group also collaborated with Manns in his works “Con la razón y al fuerza” (1982) and “La muerte no va conmigo” (1986).
After 17 years living in exile, Patricio Manns returned to Chile in 1990 touring and performing throughout the country, and giving expression to this experience on the album “Patricio Manns en Chile”. In 1997 he released the compilation “Cantología” (1997) and one year later recorded a CD of ballads and boleros titled “Porque te amé”. Settled back in his country since 2000, Manns has continued to collaborate with Salinas and Inti-Illimani and has launched a couple of recording of his own, “Allende” (2003) and “La tierra entera” (2010). The latter includes songs whose lyrics refer to burning problems of present-day Chile such as the mining industry (“De Pascua Lama”, award winning song at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival 2010) and Mapuche people’s resistance.
His prolific career as musician has never stopped him from writing: his last novel, the fifteenth he has published, titled “El lento silbido de los sables” appeared in 2010.