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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 June 2006, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Colombian musicians organise online
Soldiers outside Club Nogal
Lopez formed his group following the blast at Club Nogal
A young Colombian guitarist is using the internet to mobilise musicians to take the streets in the hope of calming outbreaks of guerrilla violence.

Cesar Lopez, a classically-trained musician, is at the forefront of the Battalion Of Immediate Artistic Reaction, named in response to the government's Rapid Reaction Force.

Although the group formed in February 2003 following a car bomb in the capital Bogota, it is now seeing a surge of interest, much of it generated through the internet.

"We have created a battalion, a team of artists that react immediately to events that hurt the community," Lopez told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"It could be a terrorist attack, a situation of violence, or social issues that have an echo with the community.

"When we hear on the news of an incident, we move immediately with guitars and tambourines to the spot, to accompany those who are the victims."

'Guns, death and war'

Colombia has been locked in the ongoing conflict between right-wing paramilitaries and the left-wing Farc guerrillas for more than 40 years.

But Lopez - whose sister was arrested and tortured by the government when he was eight years old - said that only recently have movements of awareness and pacifism grown in the country.

Cesar Lopez (Pic: www.cesarlopez.org)
We realised the victims were able, through the music, to exorcise their feelings of impotence and pain
Cesar Lopez
"I am 32 years old, and I have never known peace," he said.

"Since I was born, I have seen guns, death and war on the news, and the tense situations in cities and towns.

"Even though this war has been going on for years, only in the last five or 10 years has there been an overwhelming reaction on the part of civil society. Only recently has the artistic community begun to pick up the themes of the conflict - displacement and the abuse of women and children."

The Battalion Of Immediate Artistic Reaction was formed immediately after the 2003 bombing of Bogota's exclusive Club Nogal, which killed 36 and injured more than 100.

After hearing of the attack, Lopez and a number of other musicians went to the scene to play music.

"We arrived there with our guitars and our music, and we realised that the victims, many of whom were crying, were able, through the music, to exorcise their feelings of impotence and pain," he said.

"This prompted us to set up this group."

Gun guitar

It was also while standing outside the bombed club that Lopez got the inspiration for the instrument that has made him famous - the escopetarra, or "gun guitar" - a guitar made from a real rifle.

Battalion Of Immediate Artistic Reaction (Pic: www.cesarlopez.org)
The Battalion is brought together over the internet
Lopez said that he got the idea after seeing a soldier outside the club carrying his weapon in the same way as an instrument.

"From there sprang the idea of joining the worst invention of mankind can be joined with the most beautiful," he added.

"The weapons we use come straight from combatants, straight from the war, and have claimed victims.

"Some of the AK-47s have the barrels marked with each of the victims. So we mark the barrels with the songs we play."

An escopetarra has been used by major Latin American music star Juanes on stage, and Lopez said he is also preparing to send one to Colombian megastar Shakira.

He added that he is also hopeful they can be delivered to foreign musicians.

"The great dream is that one day we will see great artists, like Sting, Bono, Eric Clapton and Peter Gabriel, using an escopetarra at one of their concerts," he said.

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