By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
In 1972, Mike Taylor and Tony Hinnigan arrived in London from Belfast and Glasgow respectively to follow classical studies at the Royal College of Music. In the capital city they were on to explore a wide variety of music and took part in several musical ensembles, one of them being the Mercury Ensemble. In 1981, Christopher Bruce, Ballet Rambert's associated choreographer, was asked to do a work for the Chilean Human Rights Committee and was given a lot of South American music. Bruce choreographed "Ghost dances" about the political repression and the plight of the innocent people that prevailed in South America, and the original source of the music was Inti-Illimani's recording "Canto de los pueblos andinos" from which he selected six numbers ("Ojos azules", "Huajra", "Dolencias", "Papel de Plata", "Mis llamitas", "Sikuriada"). From the start of the production’s creation it was decided that the music accompanying the dance should be played live. As it was only available as a recording, it had to be transcribed and arranged by Ballet Rambert's music director, Nicholas Mojsiejenko, who had to acquire knowledge of the traditional Amerindian instruments played on the Altiplano. The instruments had to be obtained via contacts in Paris and Cologne and the musicians of the Mercury Ensemble (who then accompanied Rambert’s performances) had to learn to play them. They were particularly successful and sold their privately-made cassettes of the score after performances. A year later they went on to form the group Incantation after a recording contract was offered by Beggars Banquet label.
The original line-up of the band included Forbes Henderson, Simon Rogers and Chris Swithinbank alongside Taylor and Hinnigan. They had a stunning start: the band's debut album "On the wing of the condor" sold in excess of 300,000 copies, and the single "Cacharpaya", reached twelfth spot on the charts.
The band combined their studio work with regular live performances and extensive television and film-work, and repeated their early success with subsequent album and compilation releases, including "Dance of the flames" (1983), "Virgins of the sun" (1984), "Panpipes of the Andes - Best of Incantation" (1986), "The meeting" (1987) and "On gentle rocks" (1992).
In those years the band toured across Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. Rogers and Swithinbank left in 1985 and the remaining members were joined by Chilean exiles Sergio Ávila, Mauricio Venegas and Claudia Figueroa, who themselves performed together in their own band, Quimantu. In 1986, their contributed to "The Mission" (1986) film score penned by Ennio Morricone. This was Incantation's first film work and the success attained brought the band to the attention of other well-known film composers and to participate in a number of other film scores.
In 1993, the band was reformed as a seven-piece outfit, without the involvement of the Chilean trio and went on to promote their new album releases: "Ghost dances & Sergeant Early's dream" (1994), "Songs for the seasons" (1994) and "Incantation" (1995). After a long interlude, the band reappeared in 2012 with the album "Atacama", dedicated to the Chilean miners that spent 69 days underground before they were rescued.
Incantation made the most of their popularity and the impact of South American "ethnic" melodies on Europe (especially those on the zampoñas, Andean panpipes). Some of their early hits were copies of traditional Andean tunes more or less adapted to suit the liking of their audiences (e.g. "On the wings of a condor" is an adapted version of "Ojos azules", and "Cacharpaya", a remake of "Cacharpaya del indio"). As time passed, the band matured in sound and attained a blend of Andean and British/Irish music, of both classic and modern genres, with a handful of "ethnic" influences. On their last album, "Atacama", the band returns to their South-American roots.
Video 01. "On the wings of a condor" by Incantation.
Video 02. "Cacharpaya" by Incantation.
Video 03. "The condor dance" by Incantation.
Video 04. "Canarios" by Incantation (live, low quality).
Video 05. "El cóndor pasa" by Incantation (live, low quality).
Video 06. "Cutimuy" by Incantation (live, low quality).