does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Hero's Journey - Mercedes Sosa

In February 1982, Argentine folksinger Mercedes Sosa returned from exile and appeared on a Buenos Aires concert stage for the first time in three years. Simply appearing on stage took considerable courage since at her last concert in Argentina, Mercedes Sosa had been arrested, along with her audience. After that, bowing to international pressure, the military junta allowed her to go into exile, where she first lived in Paris and then in Spain.

Given that background, the atmosphere in the theater was understandably electric on that February summer night twenty-eight years ago. In an auditorium filled to capacity, fans lined the walls and stood in the back, waiting anxiously. As it turned out, no one needed to know Mercedes Sosa’s already stirring history to be captivated. When La Negra's voice, banned by the junta for years, rang out with its first pure chords, all knew they were in the presence of musical genius. As the evening wore on, Mercedes Sosa sang their hopes of liberation and expressed their sorrow about a grief still otherwise unspoken. Whether young or old, all faces shone with tears and joy. It was as if a nation, so long immersed in terror and persecution, found its voice again.

As for Argentina, within two months of this concert, the junta, perhaps sensing their waning support, launched the disastrous Falkland Islands/Las Malvinas war. That ultimately so discredited them in the eyes of the world and their own countrymen that, by the end of the year, the military was out of power and Argentina held its first democratic election in ten years.

Mercedes Sosa died at 74 in October 2009, having lived a remarkable life that took her from a provincial Argentine town to performing in front of sold-out crowds all over the world. In honor of her courage, indeed heroism, in February 1982 and throughout her life, I post these videos of some of my favorite Mercedes Sosa songs.

"La Cigarra" [The Cicada] The song talks of repeatedly being killed and then resurrecting after being given up for dead. The chorus: "I kept singing like the cicada which, after a year underground, sings to the sun; like the survivor, who returns from war."

"Gracias a la Vida " [Thank you, Life] with Joan Baez

"Canción con Todos" [Song with Everyone] This is frequently referred to as the Latin American anthem. One of its lines says: "I feel as I walk all the skin of America in my skin and in my blood runs a river that liberates its flow in my voice."

Other posts in the A Hero's Journey series:

Nelson Mandela

William Joseph Seymour - A Son of Slaves Sparks an International Religious Revival

The Original Literary Hero - Gilgamesh


A Cuban In London said...

What a heartfelt tribute to one of the greatest voices in Iberoamerica. I grew up listening to Mercedes Sosa. One of my favourite songs was 'Carito'. Also her take on Chico Buarque's 'O Que Sera (Flor da Pele)' was masterful. And what to say about 'Yo Vengo a Ofrecer Mi Corazon', originally written and sung by Fito Paez, the famous Argentinian pop artist.

Many thanks for raising awareness of this sadly lost voice and remarkable woman.

Greetings from London.

A Cuban In London said...

I forgot to mention something important last night. And it is that again we're in tandem because I have a clip of Mercedes included in my Tuesday's post. The article is not about her per se, it is rather about language but it is one of those 'coincidencese' to which I have long got used in blogland. :-)

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Cuban, I look forward to reading your Tuesday post and thereby spending more time with this remarkable woman and her amazing voice.

Sun Singer said...

Amazing, just amazing.

Patricia O'Sullivan said...

Concion con todos reminds me of one of my favorite films, The Mission.

Judith Mercado said...

Malcolm, she is amazing. Hers is one of those unforgettable voices. Her life story is also amazing.

Patti, I love that movie too.

Nevine said...

I've always loved "Gracias a la vida", so I have to say that of the three, it is my favorite. One thing that I noticed about Sosa's performing style, though, is that she seems to be in another realm when she sings. She seems to sing with alert senses and with a deep love for what she is doing. Her performance in the clip of "Gracias a la vida" with Joan Baez is just captivating. There is no doubt that we are influenced by the events in our lives, and there is no doubt that Sosa's deep appreciation for her own music comes from a life truly experienced.

Thank you for sharing a piece of your life with us through the music of your life, Judith.


Judith Mercado said...

Nevine, why am I not surprised you were already a Mercedes Sosa fan? I'm glad she resonates with you as well.

wcloister said...

Very beautiful offering for a very delicate soul. I agree with Nevine. Mercedes Sosa singing style is full of truthfulness.

She is The Cicada herself.

My last post was sparkled by one of my favorite songs of hers: "Todo Cambia". A life changing song for me, one not to take lightly.

Cheers from the North Pole.

Chennifer said...

very good post - I hadn't read it before. Yes, the junta started a war as their last hope to gain some popularity - but so did Thatcher. People often forget that she wanted - and needed - the war too.

The story of Sosa id a great one.

Have you read The Little School by Alicia Partnoy? I highly recommend it.

Gracias por visitar mi blog!

Judith Mercado said...

Chennifer, I will look for The Little School by Alicia Partnoy. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and then comment on it. Much appreciated.