Victor Jara family sues alleged killer
Last month, on the 40th anniversary of the military coup that overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende, Joan Jara, widow of folk singer Victor Jara, launched a civil suit in the U.S. against a former Chilean army officer who she claims tortured and murdered her husband. The lawsuit, which will be heard in a federal courtroom in Jacksonville, Florida, accuses former army lieutenant Pedro Barrientos Nunez of ordering soldiers to torture Jara, and then personally executing him will a bullet to the back of the head. Barrientos is one of a group of officers who face criminal charges in Chile for the singer’s murder. He left Chile in 1989 and now lives as a U.S. citizen in Deltona, Florida. Barrientos is charged with torture, extrajudicial killing, and crimes against humanity. For more information see U.S. journalist Amy Goodman’s interview with Joan Jara on the September 9th episode of the daily online news show Democracy Now! (www.democracy.org).
Portuguese soprano protests austerity
Opera singer Ana Maria Pinto has become a prominent figure in Portugal’s anti-austerity movement, lending her soaring voice to numerous protests. It began last year, when the singer was visiting Lisbon. She’d decided to attend President Anibal Cavaco Silva’s Republic Day address to the nation. At the 18th-century courtyard where the ceremony was held, Pinto found herself among a crowd of locked-out protesters. The President had broken with protocol, allowing only invited dignitaries inside the courtyard. However, towards the end of his speech the gates were opened and the protesters (Pinto included) rushed in. As the singer describes it, she immediately filled her lungs and burst into song, drowning out the President and confusing dignitaries who thought that an opera singer must be a part of the ceremony. Since her political debut, Pinto has become a regular at anti-austerity protests, singing solo and leading sing-along’s of songs of struggle, including two classic anti-fascist songs by the Portuguese communist composer Fernando Lopes-Graça: “Acordai (Wake Up)” and “Firmeza (Firm)”. For more info: www.npr.org.
Yellow Ribbons for the Cuban 5
Several prominent Cuban musicians, including singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez, have recorded a music video of the 1973 Tony Orlando hit “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”. It’s part of a world-wide solidarity campaign to mobilize support for the release of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, and Fernando González, the remaining imprisoned members of the Cuban Five. September 12th was the 15th anniversary of their arrest in Florida on trumped-up espionage charges. The fifth member, René González, who was released earlier this year, launched the yellow ribbon campaign in Havana on September 3rd with a televised appeal to the nation. González urged Cubans to fill the country with yellow ribbons, describing the action as “a message from the Cuban people to the American people, via a symbol which, in the U.S. environment, is a symbol of love”. The campaign continues until October 6th. To watch the video (sung in English with Spanish sub-titles) visit http://www.thecuban5.org.
Rovics returns to Toronto and Ottawa
The outstanding progressive singer-songwriter David Rovics returns to Ontario this month for two concerts. On October 11th he’ll be in Toronto for a show at the United Jewish People’s Order’s Winchevsky Centre. Next day he’ll be in Ottawa, headlining a benefit for the Marvin Glass Memorial Solidarity Fund at the Melkite Catholic Church. The globetrotting activist has most recently been in Hawaii, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. His keen observations on local culture and politics can be found in his “Songwriter’s Notebook” blog. Check out his August 25th entry “Travels in the Occupied North Pacific” at http://www.songwritersnotebook.blogspot.ca/. As with most of his recordings, David Rovics’ two new albums, Into a Prism and Everything Can Change can be downloaded from his website on a pay-what-you-can basis (http://davidrovics.com). For concert details see the “What’s Left” listings in this paper.
Sweet Honey celebrates 40 years
Sweet Honey in the Rock, the internationally-acclaimed African-American women’s acapella group, is celebrating 40 years of music making. The group was founded in 1973 by noted civil rights activist and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon (who retired in 2004). While experiencing various personnel changes over the years, Sweet Honey in the Rock has maintained its high artistic standards and its commitment to women’s rights, racial equality, peace and social justice. Despite its many awards it has remained an “indy” group, so it’s no surprise that it has launched a crowd funding campaign to raise $35,000 to help offset production costs for the upcoming anniversary “Forty and Fierce” tour. A career retrospective double Cd is also in the works. After 40 years, Sweet Honey in the Rock remains artistically vital and relevant. Visit YouTube for a brilliant 2008 performance of Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Ella’s Song” (a tribute to Africa-American activist Ella Baker). For more info: http://sweethoneyintherock.org/.