A testament to the fact that good music almost always survives...
Paul Sullivan 2007
For many, the jury is still out on the legacy of Che Guevara, the photogenic, cigar-munching medic-turned-revolutionary. Yes, he rocked the beard and beret look like no other; yes, his rhetoric was infectious; and yes, his military prowess and leadership qualities were undoubtedly impressive. Yet the consequences of his Stalinist-style communism – which generally spawned more oppression than genuine liberation – and the breezy way he executed vast numbers of men, women and children (many of them verifiably innocent) without any kind of trial has, well, dented his sexy image somewhat.
In any case, Lucha Por La Vida (Struggle For Life), a compilation commemorating the 40th anniversary of Guevara’s death, neatly sidesteps such issues and simply uses the contemporary, uncritical ‘Cult of Che’ as a hook on which to hang a commendable selection of Latin American recordings.
Kicking off with celebrated Argentinean singer/songwriter/guitarist Atahualpa Yupanqui’s strummed lament “Nada Mas,” it proceeds haphazardly through 16 more largely excellent pieces. Tango iconoclast Astor Piazzolla is here, with two shining examples of his virtuosity on the bandoneón, namely “Libertango” and the soaring “Muerte Del Angel”.
The Chilean Nueva Canción movement is well represented by Violeta Parra and her daughter Isabel, as well as by Inti-Illimani, whose reflective “Trigales” is the first to bring the inevitable Andean flutes to the party. And there’s more breezy ethereality from Illapu. Perhaps most relevant of all given the “theme” is poet/songwriter Victor Jara, who was tortured and murdered during the Pinochet coup, and provides awesome lyrical depth with his timeless “Vientos del Pueblo”.
Such material contrasts starkly with the heavily percussive funk of Irakere and a smattering of Brazilian grooves in the form of Raul Seixas’ MPB anthem “Metamorfose Ambulante” and Tim Maia’s trunk-shaking “No Caminho Do Bem”. Other notable items include Gato Barbieri’s “Tupac Amaru” – illustrating the jazzier side of the Latin temperament – and Santana, whose “Samba pa’ti” predictably features plenty of indulgent hair-rock guitar.
Che fan or no, this is a solid compilation and also testament to the fact that good music almost always survives, even when the ideologies it attempts to support fail.