Victor Jara was an impoverished Chilean laborer who became a monk, a soldier, an actor and professor of theater; a political activist, a poet, and a popular folk musician; and ultimately a people's martyr following his brutal murder (along with thousands of his fellow citizens) in 1973 during the U.S.-backed military coup that toppled the government of Chile's democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende. Amidst widespread global outrage at this gruesome miscarriage of justice, Jara quickly became even more famous than he had been while alive, and his recordings were widely circulated throughout North America on LPs bearing the Monitor and Americanto labels. Canto Libre, a collection released during the 1990s, contains material dating back at least as far as 1970. Jara sang beautifully, always expressing his thoughts and viewpoints with unflinching honesty, playing his guitar alone or surrounded by folk musicians from nations and cultures all over Latin America. Jara's egalitarian discipline of cultural solidarity is manifest at various points in this collection, with words and music traceable to Mexico ("The Ballad of Pancho Villa"), Peru ("Inga"), and Bolivia ("El Tinku" and "How Happy Are the Women Workers"). Jara's devotion to socialism must be understood as a call for Chilean self-determination; the best way to put it in context would be to read Pablo Neruda's Memoirs. Jara was incredibly outspoken, and it was typical of him to come up with a title that translates as "Thus They Kill Blacks Today." His greatest achievement was the song "Canto Libre," with its soaring flutes, stirring percussion, and passionately strummed guitars. Victor Jara's spirit transcends all language barriers. Like his voice and the instrumentation, the poetry is tremendously moving and unforgettable: "My singing is a chain without beginning or end, and in each link is found the song of everyone else."
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf