the short story
Named after the mountain at La Paz, Bolivia, Inti-Illimani (Inti-E-gee-manee) means “Sun of the Illimani,” in the Aymara dialect. It is therefore a kind of paradox that the history of Inti-Illimani began underground, in a dark canteen of Santiago’s Arts and Trades School of the Technical University of State. It was there in the 1960’s that the founding members met and began playing music together. Originally on the path to engineering, they would soon discover that their true destinies lie not in trade, but in the arts. This love of music encouraged their restless souls to explore the indigenous cultures of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina. In these poorest, purest and ancient cultures, they discovered not only Andean music and therefore their roots, but corners of the world in need of voice…Inti-Illimani’s music quickly became Latin America’s visceral link between pueblo and people, vivified in Nueva Canción.
Nueva Canción (new song) is not only the name of the early Inti-Illimani recording which propelled them into global recognition and popularity, but is also the name of the socio-political, artistic movement of the 1970’s and 80’s throughout Latin America, which sought to resurrect and celebrate the traditional folk sounds of Latin culture while delivering messages of social change and revolution. It played a powerful role in the many uprisings against oppressive governments during these times, and many of its messengers faced censorship, exile, forced disappearance and worse. Inti-Illimani was no exception.
Following 15 years of exile in Italy they moved home in 1990, coinciding with the official resignation of Pinochet. Warmly welcomed home by the Chilean people, their return was symbolic of the end of a tragic, stifling era.
Known for their open-minded musical approach, Inti-Illimani continues to allow for its own evolution while staying true to its musical roots. Over the past two decades, the Inti legacy has strengthened as some founding members retired, and new members joined. Founder Jorge Coulon remarks, “What pleases me about this group today is that the creative risks it is taking are very much in keeping with our history while opening us up to many perspectives, many possibilities.”
In 2013, Inti-Illimani took responsibility for a closed, public high school in a vulnerable neighborhood in La Florida, Santiago. The school, now called Sol del Illimani, is attended by 260 students and strongly features music and art in its curriculum. All members of Inti-Illimani teach at Sol del Illimani.
48 years since its founding, Inti-Illimani continues to tour throughout South and Central America, Europe, Australia and North America. In November 2014 Inti-Illimani released Teoría de Cuerdas, the ensemble’s 36th studio album.
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