Just a day after England’s abject humiliation, is it time to kiss goodbye to my favourite team of this entire tournament? I spent a good two months telling anybody who would listen to keep an eye out for Chile, and their frankly outrageous 3-1-3-3 formation this summer, and with two victories, countless shots on goal, and a dominant, if ultimately fruitless performance against European champions Spain, they haven’t let me down. Today, though, they face Brazil. It’ll be a battle between two very different ideologies – Brazil’s solid pragmatism against Chile’s practically suicidal commitment to getting men forward at any cost. Chile could very well pull off a shock, but this is a World Cup. You can’t bet against Brazil. It’s the law. Still, at least Chile can come out of the tournament saying that they, along with Germany, can boast one of the two most exciting young talents to emerge at the tournament.
The one single figure that probably encapsulates the history of Chilean popular music more than anybody is Victor Jara. A crucial part of the folky and politically charged Nueva Canción movement, which was the first and still biggest genre of popular music associated with Chile, he would perhaps still be held in such high regard even if he were still alive, but his death – in a hostage situation at the hands of General Pinochet’s armies during a military coup, no less – cemented his legend. As a member of the Chilean communist party and a theatre director, his contribution to the nation’s very cultural indentity as a whole simply can’t be overlooked. Nick Drake and Bob Dylan are obvious comparisons to English speaking ears but he barely has an equal, for what he achieved and what he means to his country. Not even a figure as enduringly iconic as John Lennon did quite so much.
Chile’s most famous musician these days, however, is Pitchfork-approved minimal techno and microhouse pioneer Ricardo Villalobos – a man who was exiled from Chile, again by Pinchet’s regime, at a young age. One could possibly argue that he’s been over-rated by the swell of media praise that seems to constantly surround him, and they’d probably have a point, but he’s been an enduring, ever-present cult figure for the best part of a decade now, without alienating either the clubbers or the stay-at-home chin-strokers along the way, and that can’t be taken away from him. It’s a very difficult trick to pull off, and Lord knows he’s snuck some Chilean flavour into more people’s record collections than just about anybody else.
Taking a slightly different tack, not just to this blog but to the entire series, I’m going to post up some classical music that is not composed by a Chilean artist, but is performed by one. The man in question is Claudio Arrau, and he qualifies as a special case here because, as one of the most enduring and successful classical pianists of the recorded era, he is surely Chile’s most respected musician. His repertoire is one of the widest-ranging of the major performers, running up to Schoenburg and back to Bach, although his style tends to lend itself best to mid-to-late Romanticism, and the bridge into nationalism, impressionism, and the very early bloomings of serialism. Here’s his performance of the rather lovely “Reflets dans l’eau” by Claude Debussy, a name I suspect may be appearing quite heavily in a later blog too….