Inti-Illimani Celebrates 50 years of Music, Activism & Education
Inti-Illimani has transcended our idea of the musical ensemble and has become a cultural location, a liturgy expressing the essence of the Latin-American ethno-musical experience. Founded by Jorge Coulon in 1967, for 50 years Inti-Illimani has performed world-wide to hundreds of thousands of fans, collaborated with folk legends, earned awards and honors for their activism and masterful musicianship, and produced one of the richest discographies in Latin-American recording history. Indeed, Inti-Illimani’s premier album, Nueva Canción, or “new song,” spoke to their role in dreaming a new vision for Chile during the volatile socio-political landscape of South America during the 1960’s and 70’s. They have endured political exile, embodied creative leadership through decades of transition and evolution, and enjoyed an invaluable, truly majestic career.
Inti-Illimani’s poetry- a sound that captures memories of persecution, love, loss, revolution, social justice, and freedom- has enchanted the ear of legendary artists with whom they have performed and recorded, including Peter Gabriel, Patricio Manns, John Williams and Paco Peña. They’ve also shared stages with Mercedes Sosa, Emma Thompson, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Wynton Marsalis, Tracy Chapman, Arja Saijonmaa, Holly Near, Yousssou’n’Dour, and Pete Seeger. Most recently, Joan Baez invited them to perform with her at Teatro Caupolican in Santiago, Chile.
From the group’s friendship with the late, great Victor Jara to their camaraderie with Nano Stern- considered by many the voice of Chile’s younger generation- Inti-Illimani’s song-line reaches across time, space, and nations, yet remains ever-grounded in Chilean roots.
Renowned for their humanity and arts-activism, they have appeared on Amnesty International stages, lectured extensively on Latin-American folk and indigenous music, culture and social change; and most recently, founded an arts-centric charter school, Sol Del Illimani, which the group saved from closing in one of Santiago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Inti-Illimani has toured in dozens of countries at prestigious concert halls, festivals, and benefit concerts. In 1992, the City of Minneapolis proclaimed a greeting to Inti-Illimani and called for a return to peace and democracy with its sister city, Santiago; and in 1997, UC Berkeley honored Inti-Illimani with a Human Rights Award.
They have recorded 36 studio albums, most recently Teoría de Cuerdas (2014) and La Máquina del Tiempo (The Time Machine) (2012), for which they gave two legendary, sold-out concerts at Teatro Caupolican alongside Chile’s most important artists.
In 1978, Inti-Illimani recorded “Canción para matar una culebra” in Rome, which became a gold record in Italy. A highlight from that record is Vuelvo, one of the most powerful songs the group ever recorded.
In 1981, the band recorded “Palimpsesto” in Rome, its title track based on a poem written by long-time collaborator and co-lyricist Patricio Manns, earning them another gold record. That same year they created the soundtrack for the BBC TV series “Flight of the condor,” and were nominated for a British Academy Award (1982). In 1984 Inti-Illimani was nominated for a British Academy of Music Award for the platinum album El Vuelo del Condor; and made their first digital and instrumental recording, Imaginación, in Germany.
Inti-Illimani means “sun of the mountain,” taken from the indigenous Aymara dialect. As they approach their 50-year anniversary, we celebrate the incredible light they have deposited into the world’s treasury of exquisite, enduring, and activated musical artistry.
An Inti-Illimani concert is a wild ride through Latin music, a whirlwind of Andean folk tunes, tangos from Argentina, Brazilian sambas, and throbbing, sobbing love songs from Mexico. ..all the players displayed relentless virtuosity in a concert that was pure exhilaration to the very end.
– The Washington Post
Few Latin American acts can rival this Chilean group in terms of the sheer beauty of sound. Much like a Zen affirmation, Inti-Illimani's music floats within your soul, filling it with calmness and hope.
– The Los Angeles Times
Sol del Illimani
In 2013, Inti-Illimani took responsibility for a closed, public high school in a vulnerable neighborhood in La Florida, Santiago. The institution was renamed and turned into a charter school now called Sol del Illimani and is attended by 260 students. Music and the arts are now central to the curriculum - along with math, science, and the humanities – and Inti-Illimani participates directly not only in the management of the school, but also teach at the school.