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MUSICIANS OF THE WORLD: ATAHUALPA YUPANQUI

Updated on September 12, 2012

Among the massive production of artists and singers, only very few- in my opinion -will stand out through time not only because of their talent but because of their integrity, simplicity, morality, modesty and idealism. One such singer, a descendant of the Incas race was Atahualpa Yupanqui. I have had the honour to meet him personally ,in Greece, many years ago when I was very young.

As years went by and life's continuous struggle sidetracked me, Atahualpa, as well as some other of my favourite artists, poets and musicians were locked in the drawer of my memories and forgotten. Work, money, household, family and a lot of TV and Internet to relax and entertain my tired brain and body . And then, one day, Atahualpa appeared to me in a dream, riding his horse and saying : go out and spread my word.

This is a lie, of course, I wish this had happened, it was on you tube that I saw him again, on interviews that he had given on various TV channels. Then, all of a sudden I remembered my youth, my idealism, my music, my poetry.

ATAHUALPA: A MAN BORN TO BE A POET

Atahualpa was first a poet and then a musician. The way he speaks is pure and absolute poetry. It seems to me that he only had to put music to his ordinary speech in order to create his songs. As words come out of his mouth, vivid pictures of the Argentinian pampa pass in front of your eyes: hard-working, hospitable villagers, dark-skinned gauchos, the dry and arid earth, his beloved countryside. From these vivid pictures, like crystal clear water streaming out of a fountain, some long- forgotten values arise: respect for the poor, for one's land, love of the earth, and, on top of all dignity. Dignity is the word for him. Dignity in spite of all.

LOS EJES DE MI CARRETA (THE AXES OF MY CART)

HIS BIOGRAPHY IN WIKIPEDIA

Atahualpa Yupanqui (31 January 1908 - 23 May 1992) was an Argentine singer, songwriter, guitarist, and writer. He is considered the most important Argentine folk musician of the 20th century.

Yupanqui was born as Héctor Roberto Chavero Aramburo in Pergamino (Buenos Aires Province), in the Argentine pampas. His father was Argentine, descended from indigenous people, while his mother was born in the Basque country. In a bow to two legendary Incan kings, he adopted the stage name Atahualpa Yupanqui, which became famous the world over.

In his early years, Yupanqui travelled extensively through the northwest of Argentina and the Altiplano studying the indigenous culture. He also became radicalized and joined the Communist Party of Argentina. In 1931, he took part in the failed uprising of the Kennedy brothers in order to press the government de facto of Uriburu and to give air to the democratic radical project anti fascist in support to Hipólito Yrigoyen and was forced to seek refuge in Uruguay. He returned to Argentina in 1934.

In 1935, Yupanqui paid his first visit to Buenos Aires; his compositions were growing in popularity, and he was invited to perform on the radio. Shortly thereafter, he made the acquaintance of pianist Antonieta Paula Pepin Fitzpatrick, nicknamed "Nenette", who became his lifelong companion and musical collaborator under the pseudonym "Pablo Del Cerro".

Because of his Communist Party affiliation (which lasted until 1952), his work suffered from censorship during Juan Perón's presidency; he was detained and incarcerated several times. He left for Europe in 1949. Ãdith Piaf invited him to perform in Paris on 7 July 1950. He immediately signed contract with "Chant Du Monde", the recording company that published his first LP in Europe, "Miner I am", which obtained the first prize of Best Foreign Disc of the Charles Gross Academy, which included three hundred fifty participants of all the continents in the Contest the International of Folklore. He subsequently toured extensively throughout Europe.

In 1952, Yupanqui returned to Buenos Aires. He broke with the Communist Party, which made it easier for him to book radio performances. While with Nenette they construct the house of the Colorado Hill (Córdoba), Yupanqui crosses the country.

Recognition of Yupanqui's ethnographic work became widespread during the 1960s, and nueva canción artists such as Mercedes Sosa and Jorge Cafrune recorded his compositions and made him popular among the younger musicians, who referred to him as Don Ata.

Yupanqui alternated between houses in Buenos Aires and Cerro Colorado, Córdoba province. During 1963-1964, he toured Colombia, Japan, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, and Italy. In 1967, he toured Spain, and settled in Paris. He returned regularly to Argentina and appeared in Argentinísima II in 1973, but these visits became less frequent when the military dictatorship of Jorge Videla came to power in 1976. In February 1968, Yupanqui was named Gentleman of the Arts and the Letters of France by the Ministry of Culture of that country, by the work realised throughout 18 years to act and to offer its Literature to the Gallic country. Some of his songs are included in the programs of Institutes and Schools where Castilian Literature is taught.

In 1989, an important cultural center of France, the University of Nanterre, asked Yupanqui to write the lyrics of a Cantata to commemorate the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. The piece, entitled "The Sacred Word" (Parole Sacree), was released before high French authorities. It was not a recollection of historical facts but rather a tribute to all the oppressed towns that freed themselves. Yupanqui died in Nîmes, France in 1992 at the age of 84; his remains were cremated and dispersed on his beloved Colorado Hill on 8 June 1992.

DUERME NEGRITO (SLEEP LITTLE BLACK BOY)

An old song that Atahualpa had once heard sang by a black native in the Caribbean zone and made it well known to the world. In his own words : "it's an old lullaby that a neighbour sang to her friend's child while she went to work in the coffee plantations. She promises him lots of goodies, something unatteinable for those people, to finish with the hard reality of the black devil. (I can't help making the comparison of how we sing lullabies to our children and how we have to cajole them to make them eat.)

Sleep little black boy

and your mum is in the fields

working

working, yes

hard

She is going to bring. quails for you,

tasty fruit for you,

porc meat for you,

nice things for you.

And if the little black boy doesn't sleep

a white devil will come

to eat his little foot........

Sleep little black boy.

LA ESTANCIA VIEJA

PREGUNTITA A DIOS (LITTLE QUESTIONS TO GOD)

LYRICS OF ATAHUALPA YUPANQUI'S SONGS

Since I do not trust my own translation, I searched for Atahualpa's lyrics translated into English. Unfortuantely I only found one of which there is no video. It's only a tiny sample of his work, but I think it is enough to give a glimpse of his spirit and art. It's called: YO QUIERO UN CABALLO NEGRO (I WANT A BLACK HORSE)

I want a black Horse,

and some silver spurs,

so I can catch up with life

which is getting away from me

which is getting away from me

I want a braided lasso,

a mix of bull and llama,

so I can ensnare those dreams

which are running away

which are running away

I want a poncho that has

the color of the road

So I can wrap myself in the night

of my destiny

of my destiny

Horse... spurs and lasso

I don't think they'll do the trick!

I don't even have the poncho.

I'm going to sleep

I'm going to sleep

CAMINO DEL INDIO (THE WAY OF THE INDIAN)

"Myself, yes, I have to say "gracias a la vida" because it has given me the best luck that a poor and -as far as possible- conscious Argentinian aspires. For example, I have never made a fortune, I have only had a good living for some time, only for some time, most of my life I have lived in poverty, but never has envy, anger or contempt settled in my heart against those who own wealth. This must have been the influence of some ancient root in me, of copper colour, with small but straightforward eyes, my people, my race, this unknown, not always discovered and sometimes mistaken, what is called roots."

ADIOS, VIEJO SANTO, ESPERO ENCONTRARTE AL CIELO

 

CD MUSIC BY ATAHUALPA YUPANQUI

YOUR FEEDBACK

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It's WHITE devil, not BLACK devil in duerme negrito. It's about slavery...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      ATAHUALPA YUPANQUI IS THE ONLY POET COMPOSER AND SINGER IN THE WORLD THAT HAS A MONUMENT IN JAPAN. THE GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE ASKED HIM TO WRITE THE LYRICS OF THE SONG IN CONMEMORATION OF THE 200YEARS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. NOT ONLY HIS LYRICS, BOOKS, MUSIC, AND ANECDOTES ARE POETRY. ANY TIME, ANYWHERE HE SPOKE, PURE POETRY POURED FORTH FROM HIS MOUTH. I HAD THE PLEASURE MEETING HIM IN MADRID AND ENRICHED MY LIFE AS WELL THAT OF MANY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

    • Krafick profile image

      Krafick 6 years ago

      I really like Atahualpa. I still have the vinyl.

    • YsisHb profile image
      Author

      YsisHb 6 years ago

      @delia-delia: His music is deep in my soul too. And the sweet and bitter lyrics give the humble peasants the glory that they are worth.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      Oh I love the music in LA ESTANCIA VIEJA this gets deep into my soul... Another great lens...lensrolled to my "El-poderoso-de-Israel" lens

    • Pete D profile image

      Pete D 6 years ago

      very informative lens. Thumbs up