So, that Germany lot. Pretty terrifying, eh? After their 4-0 mauling of Davey’sBoys, it feels like the big names of the World Cup have finally arrived (not like these English and American numpties). Attention thus turns to Italy tonight, and their opening game against South American dark horses Paraguay – and one suspects that Italy may have an axe to grind in this one. After all, we know the Italians love to be stylish and love to be good-looking, so how will they react when they realize that Paraguay’s star centre-forward is not just more dashingly handsome than their entire squad, but probably the whole rest of the World Cup combined?
Admittedly, pug-faced thug Gennaro Gattuso does bring the batting average down considerably for the Italians.
Paraguay’s musical scene, like that of several of the other countries this blog will cover, is shaped by the political upheaval in the country’s recent history. Here, that means flirtations with communism, dictatorship, and most damningly, the artistic oppression the country suffered under Alfredo Stroessner’s reign as President. It was only in 1989 that most popular forms of music were allowed to fully blossom in the nation, having been largely shunned (although not banned) since the start of his reign in 1954. Perhaps that history explains why, despite its sunny climate, metal has thrived in the country over the past two decades. Acts like black metallers Sabaoth, thrashers Raw Hide and Corrosion, and the more traditional Dio worshippers Querebes have flown the flag in the country, none truly breaking out onto the international scene, but each maintaining a cult following. The current great white hopes are thrash revivalists The Force, who have everything – the hair, the riffs, the ridiculous album artwork – to please even the staunchest ’80s metalhead. They also have the song titles….
But let’s back up a little. Before rock was allowed to roam free, and before dictatorship stunted musical development, tango was the dominant musical form in the country; so much so that a specifically nationalist form named Guarania was developed in the 1920s, as most countries in the world were grasping for a national identity in their art music. Guarania – named for the indigenous Guaraní people of Paraguay – can’t help but feel dated now, but it would be churlish to ignore it; it is unquestionably the dominant musical form of the 20th century in Paraguay. The progenitor of the genre was José Asunción Flores – who, like Eduardo Mateo of Uruguay (mentioned in part 2 of this series), was forced into exile by the government despite his enormous contributions to his nation’s culture.
To further link this entry to Uruguay’s, we’ll finish with a classical composer most renowned for his work for the guitar. Agustin Barrios may be most famous for being credited by John Williams (the guitarist, not the film score hack) as the first classical guitarist to be recorded, although research has since proved that to be false. His name has featured heavily in the guitar repertoire, though, and it is unusual to find a serious student of classical guitar that has not performed one of his works. (La Catedral) The Cathedral is his most famous work, but I’m partial to his waltzes, so let’s have one of those.