Saturday, June 25, 2005


Update: Link was down for 24hrs, now it works again.

I was going to just post the link to this mp3, say something like "pretty tune" and leave it at that. But there's far more to be said.

Inti Illimani - kalimba (live, ft.Angel Parra Trio).mp3

You all know what a kalimba is, don't you? Small finger-piano thing. Caribbean. Metal bits plucked, nut base resonates. Beautiful little instrument, i've got a couple of them lying around which on occasion i pull out and enjoy playing, if nobody's around. But that's not what we'll be talking about today.

This particular Kalimba is played by Efren Viera, Inti Illimani's resident percussionist, saxophone player and of course Kalimba guy. The saxophone you will hear at one point in the track is also of course played by him.
I remember when i first met him, i was at Santiago airport waiting to board my plane, and recognized him in the opposite crew. Wasn't hard to recognize, mind you: a large, dark-skinned cuban among dozens of short and pale chileans kind of strikes out. A television crew was on hand, covering a handball team that was also leaving for Italy, like mr. Viera and myself. I found it amusing that while sthletes were interviewed, chilean music lovers would have seen one of their best resident musicians standing in a queue for a boarding pass.
Seems he was off to catch up with the rest of the band in Italy, to start that year's italian tour. During the long, boring flight i gathered some courage and went over to say hello.

And interrupted his game of tetris.

He was terribly kind about it, we chatted a bit and i made it a point to congratulate him on the other day's recital - i had seen him perform live with the rest of the band at an open air free concert in one of Santiago's main public gardens, an event to promote clean air consciousness (highlights: the girl next to me continually asking me song titles of what was going on onstage, continuous woodstock-style chants between sets which culminated in a drunkard behind me shouting "WASN'T SANTANA SUPPOSED TO PLAY TOO???" once the event was over). He also told me they would be playing in Trieste some days later (Inti Illimani, not Santana), which put me in the uniquely cool situation of having seen the same band perform twice in the same week in two different continents.
So anyway. We chatted, autographs were signed, greetings and even an invitation backstage popped up. Then i went back to my seat and he continued playing tetris on his little gameboy clone.

Plays tetris. Funny guy, i thought.

Then at the Trieste concert some days later(which was actually in Prosecco, but don't let that be a distraction) he whips out the Kalimba for the same-titled song, and plinks dreamily, beautifully away. And it was then that i understood: tetris wasn't a diversion, it was professional practice.

Although i do have a tape of that event somewhere, the performance i'm sharing today is far more relevant. Recorded live in Santiago on the 31st of march of 2001, it represents the first ever incursion of electric instruments in Inti Illimani's thirty-year wholly acoustic career, thanks to guest artists Angel Parra Trio.

Kalimba (Horacio Salinas, 1996)
Musicians - Inti Illimani
Horacio Salinas, Jorge Coulon, Horacio Duràn, Josè Seves, Marcelo Coulon, Efren Viera, Daniel Cantillana.
Musicians - Angel Parra Trio
Angel Parra, Roberto Lindl, Moncho Perez, Camilo Salinas, Raùl Morales. (Yes, there's five of 'em. Long story. Cope with it.)

Ok, now forget about all this rubbish i just wrote. Turn the lights down and listen to the song. All i wanted to do was share something intrinsically beautiful for once.