LONDON – The death of Victor Jara has fascinated people all over the world. But now British media focuses on his life. In a long BBC interview the Manic Street Preacher frontman James Dean Bradfield talks about his admiration for the Chilean artist.
British music, from The Beatles to Britpop, has always had an important influence on Chilean music. Some call the Chileans “the British of Latin America”. But the connection is actually a two-way street. Bands like U2, Simple Minds, Calexico and The Clash have all paid tribute to the Chilean artist Victor Jara. But most of the songs are about the death of the artist.
James Dean Bradfield, the former leader of the band Manic Street Preachers, dedicates his new album, Even in Exile, to the life of Victor Jara. “If you just focus on his (Victor Jara) death, you ignore the journey, you ignore the ambition, you ignore the songs, and you kind of ignore Chile”, says the British artist in a long and informative interview with BBC Culture.
Bradfield discovered the Chilean artist through the music of The Clash and the movie The Missing, but when actually listening to Jara´s songs, he was struck by the way he delivered a political message. The song Luchin, about a little boy from Barrancas, Pudahuel, is his favorite. Bradfield is fascinated by the tenderness and the firm love of the rural working class life. “The truth isn’t rammed down your throat; it floats to you like a dream,” he says.
Influence from Women on Victor Jara
Bradfield imagines that this mix of radicalism and sensitivity comes from the vital influence of three women – his mother, who was a musician, his English wife Joan, who was a dance teacher, and the composer Violeta Parra, who took him under her wings.
Jara was a bit skeptical of the rock stars of his time. Therefore, Bradfield is not sure that his songs would have been appreciated by the Chilean artist. Nevertheless, he hopes that by singing about the life of Jara, he can transfer something important to a new generation of artists. Just like Washington Bullets by The Clash did to him. “My gateway to Víctor Jara was music, and then I kept hearing the echo time and time again,” he says. “I wanted to show that here’s an echo that won’t die out.”
An Impressionistic Approach
The lyrics on the album are written by the poet and playwright Patrick Jones. The British newspaper The Independent finds an impressionistic approach to the life of Jara in the single The Boy from the Plantation.
“Victor Lidio Jara Martinez.
The boy from the plantation that they could not repress.
Who strummed and sang to dreams and injustice.
Victor Lidio Jara Martinez.”
Nevertheless they find that some of the strongest numbers have a more political resonance, like From The Hands of Violeta, Thirty Thousand Milk Bottles and There’ll Come a War.
Edited by Claudio Moraga
Marcus Nilsson writes about music in Chile Today. He worked in Sweden as a copywriter, editor, teacher and blogger. You can find him on Instagram as @chileanmusic30min