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Saturday, September 5, 1998 Published at 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK

World: Americas

'They couldn't kill his songs'

Victor Jara: one of the founders of the popular 'New Song' movement

The widow and friends of the Chilean folk singer Victor Jara mark the 25th anniversary of his murder with a series of events including a concert at London's Royal Festival Hall and the release of the first CD with his songs.

Mark Coles on the 25th anniversary of the murder of Victor Jara
Victor Jara was 38 when he died.

In the 1960s he wrote songs of protest against the ruling elite of his country.

He was one of the founding fathers of Chile's 'New Song' movement which in 1970 helped elect the democratic popular unity government of Salvador Allente. As a result Chile's right wing hated him.

Four days of torture

[ image: Victor Jara:
Victor Jara: "Silence and screams are the end of my song"
On 11 September 1973 Victor Jara had been due to sing in the Santiago University.

Instead, with the coup of General Augusto Pinochet, underway, he was arrested and led to Santiago's boxing stadium.

Over four days he was tortured, beaten, electrocuted, his hands and wrists broken, before finally being machine-gunned to death, at the age of 38.

His widow, Joan, says his body was thrown to the street, and was later found in the morgue "among lots and lots of anonymous bodies" that she saw that day.

Musicians gather

Joan Jara is this weekend in Britain to make sure people do not forget her husband's murder.

On the anniversary of his death on Sunday, Victor Jara's songs will be heard again.

[ image: Chileans loved Victor Jara's songs and painted murals with his images]
Chileans loved Victor Jara's songs and painted murals with his images
Musicians from around the world have gathered in London's Royal Festival Hall in a special concert hosted by the British actress Emma Thompson, who is also writing the script for a major film on his life.

His biography, written by his wife, has been updated and will republished to coincide with the anniversary of his death.

Next week the first Victor Jara CD will be released. The album is called 'Manifesto'.

The recordings on that CD have been remastered and many of them had to be smuggled from Chile after his death.

"These were songs that were rescued," says Joan Jara.

The last poem

The CD includes a reading by Andrew Mitchell of the translation of Victor Jara's last poem.

The poem was written in the boxing stadium where he was being tortured and eventually murdered. The scraps of paper where it was written on were smuggled out by those who survived.

The song remains unfinished. The lyrics literally stop mid-sentence as he was led away to the changing rooms of the stadium and was shot repeatedly through the chest.

"Silence and screams are the end of my song" he wrote.

Joan Jara says that now Victor can rest in peace, knowing that his work has been carried on as he had asked in his last message.

"They could kill him, but they couldn't kill his songs," she says.

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Internet Links

Victor Jara of Chile

Las Canciones de Victor Jara (in Spanish)

Fundación Victor Jara (in Spanish)

'New Song' movement revisited

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