For more than four decades, Chilean folk group Inti-Illimani have been playing folk music with a social conscience the world over.
The group is currently celebrating a 45 year milestone in its long and varied history as Chile’s best known pioneers of la Nueva Canción Chilena. Champions of the Andean tradition with a social and political conscience, Inti-Illimani have long been respected both at home and abroad. The group were exiled in Italy when the Allende government was usurped by General Augosto Pinochet but returned to a warm welcome in Santiago on Independence Day in 1988. They subsequently went on to support the ‘no’ campaign against eight more years of Pinochet’s regime and in 2001 the group were awarded the Premio a la Música Presidente de la República under the ‘popular music’ category. Moreover, they have enjoyed recognition and acclaim for their work throughout the world, not to mention the platinum selling records they have produced that include La Nueva Canción Chilena and Viva Chile!
The group’s name is derived from the Aymaran words Inti (the Incan Sun god) and Illimani, the endonym for the largest mountain of the Cordilla Real in Bolivia, standing at some 6000 plus metres into the Andean heavens. It is perhaps no small irony then that the group’s beginnings were found in the dark basement canteen room of the Escuela de Artes y Oficios, Universidad Tèchnica del Estado (UTE) in Santiago. In 1966, while Dylan and the Beatles released Blonde on Blonde and Revolver, respectively, Saturday mornings in the University basement were home to the peña foklórica (folk club) where students would gather with wine and empanadas to listen to groups from the University. It was here that the mighty Inti-Illimani spirit was born.
Following a split in 2001 (Inti-Illimani & Inti-Illimani Histórico), the band continues to record and tour the world. Like wonderfully soft invocations, the musical experience swoops down unbidden into your consciousness. A great example of which is the rhythmically infectious Rondombe,
See what founder member Jorge Coulon had to say about the "Inti" journey thus far when chileno.co.uk caught up with him about while in Canada...