Victor Jara’s killers convicted
On July 10, 45 years after his murder, a Santiago Court of Appeals in Chile convicted nine military officers of killing singer-songwriter Victor Jara, one of the outstanding figures in the “Nueva Cançion” (“New Song”) movement that swept Latin America in the sixties. Jara was a member of the Communist Party of Chile and, after 1970, cultural ambassador for the socialist Popular Unity government of Dr. Salvador Allende. Popular Unity was overthrown on September 11, 1973 in a U.S.-backed coup. Allende was murdered and the brutal dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, seized power. The Santiago court also convicted the same men for the murder of Allende’s Director of Prisons, Littré Quiroga, who was on leave when the coup occurred, but returned to work to send his staff home. Quiroga surrendered without resistance to the coup forces and paid the ultimate price for his principled behavior. The court’s ruling established that Jara and Quiroga had been recognized by their captors as “prisoners of a certain public standing”, subjected to violent abuse, and then, on September 15, taken away and shot. Their bodies were thrown into the street and later found in a vacant lot near a cemetery. Judge Miguel Vázquez sentenced 8 retired officers – Hugo Sanchez, Raúl Jofré, Edwin Dimter, Nelson Haase, Ernesto Bethke, Juan Jara, Hernán Chacón, and Patricio Vásquez – to 15 years in prison for the murders plus three additional years for kidnapping the victims. The 9th accused officer, Ronaldo Meloa, was sentenced to five years for covering up the homicides and kidnappings. Judge Vázquez ordered the Chilean state to pay about $2 million (CDN) compensation to the families.
The 10th World Choir Games
The motto of the World Choir Games is “singing together brings nations together.” The biennial competition, formerly known as the Choir Olympics, brings together amateur choirs from around the world in peaceful competition. The 10th World Choir Games were held July 4-14 in Tshwane City, South Africa, where 352 choirs from 62 countries competed for gold, silver, and bronze medals in 29 choral categories. The competition was preceded by a joyous parade of 6,000 choristers through the centre of Tshwane. The World Choir Games were founded by Interkultur, a German musical society that organizes annual choral competitions and festivals. “The idea to create an event like the World Choir Games,” says its website, “is based on the Olympic ideals, which aim to peacefully unify people and nations connected by song in a fair competition”. Competing choirs were evaluated by a panel of choral experts from 28 nations. The top medal winning countries in Tshwane were South Africa (76), China (25), Russia (17), and USA (15). It shouldn’t be surprising that the host country was by far the biggest medal winner, since 167 of the 352 choirs were from South Africa. On the other hand, the country is justly celebrated for its world famous choral traditions. The 11th World Choir Games will be held in 2020 in the Belgian cities of Ghent and Antwerp. For more info visit www.interkultur.com.
Bread & Roses Songwriting Awards
An important working class cultural initiative in the U.K. has borne fruit. The Bread and Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Awards were launched last fall by one of the U.K.’s largest and most militant unions, the Communication Workers, in association with the left-wing website Culture Matters. The aim of the awards is “to encourage songwriters and spoken word performers to write material meaningful to working class people and communities, and to encourage those communities to engage more with songwriting and spoken word.” It’s open to all, regardless of trade union membership. The inaugural awards were announced in April, after judges selected five first-place winners. Chris Guitton, a judge and co-editor of Culture Matters, noted that the contest had received a large number of high-quality submissions. Another judge, Boff Whalley, songwriter and former lead guitarist with prominent punk-folk band Chumbawamba, observed: “There’s so much bad news in the world that it was inevitable that many artists would sing and speak predominantly about the bad stuff. But there’s also hope, pride and optimism out there. I was really encouraged that almost all the entries sounded like they were regional working class voices, and not just middle class writers/singers voicing working class concerns. There’s some brilliant stuff out there being sung and played and rapped and spoken.” The winners: Bloque Capitals (“That Pebbledash Finish”); Maddy Carty (“Crying at the News: Justice for Grenfell); Maria Ogundele (“Scallops With Terry & Stan”); Seonaid Stevenson (“Funeral for a Socialist / School Pride”); Warlord Baker (“Escape”). They may be unknown but they are excellent people’s artists. Listen to them at www. culturematters.org.uk.