martes, 11 de marzo de 2014

Y Seguí Cantando

I chose to name this blog post after part of the lyrics of an Argentinian song that I heard for the first time on Friday night (it means "I continued singing"). It’s called “Como la cigarra” (like the cicada) and it is such a beautiful song. It’s been playing on repeat in my head ever since and it’s one that I believe I will carry with me throughout my time here in Argentina. Before I go too much into the meaning and cultural significance of the song, let me first start by explaining how I was lucky enough to hear it.
Impulsive Joan Baez Ticket Buying Adventure
In case you haven’t been keeping up with my adventures via facebook, I’ll begin with the fact that I went to a Joan Baez concert on Friday night!! As you may or may not know, Joan Baez is one of my absolute absolute favorite singer/songwriters ever. She’s such an incredible musician and activist and it was a dream come true to get the chance to see her in concert. My friends and I were actually extremely lucky that we even found out about it because that same afternoon we just happened upon an advertisement for it as we were looking through the newspaper as part of a Spanish assignment. It was very much an impulsive decision. We just couldn't pass up the opportunity to see her, so we went and bought tickets immediately after our Spanish class. I don’t regret it one bit. The songs she chose to sing were wonderful (among them: “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Imagine,” and “Blowin’in the Wind”) and her voice is still strong and beautiful.

My friends and I at the concert
In addition to getting to hear her sing, we also had the great fortune of hearing León Gieco, a really famous Argentine folk singer/songwriter/activist, sing along with her. We actually didn’t know who he was when we were at the concert, but I did some research on him afterwards and he is truly an amazing man. He has done so much in terms of activism for human rights, especially in regards to the military dictatorship and in removing the stigma surrounding physical and mental disability. Some people call him the “Bob Dylan of Argentina,” but as much as I love the songwriting of Bob Dylan, after what I’ve discovered about León Gieco, I would say that it would be an even greater honor for Bob Dylan to be referred to as the “León Gieco of the United States.” It was after León Gieco arrived on stage that my favorite part of the entire concert happened: “Como la cigarra.” Once again, at the time we did not know this song or him or anything, but it was clear that the crowd knew exactly who he was and had this song etched upon their hearts. From this came the most beautiful of moments. Unfortunately, it's not letting me upload the video of this song from the concert. :( However, I have uploaded it to facebook, so if you're friends with me you can see it. Once it gets to the chorus, you can hear the whole room come alive with music. Like a chorus of angels, truly. It was incredible. Below I've translated the lyrics of the chorus.  

Cantando al sol como la cigarra                              Singing to the sun like a cicada
después de un año bajo la tierra,                             after a year underground,
igual que sobreviviente                                           just like a survivor
que vuelve de la guerra.                                         returning from war.

Literally every single Argentinian that I’ve shown this video to has started singing along to it. If you have the time, I definitely recommend looking up versions of it on youtube. My personal favorite is the version by Mercedes Sosa, another singer and activist who has since passed away. This song is so engrained in Argentine culture because it was used as a protest song during the military dictatorship and has since been used in remembrance of those who were “disappeared” by the government (kidnapped by the government-I’ll write more on this in another post). At its very core, this song is about determination and the strength of the people to continue even in the face of death. No matter what the government or anyone else tries to do to the people, they can’t extinguish the flame of the resistance or destroy the spirit of the people. Even if they are out of sight for a while, the people will ultimately emerge, continuing to sing.  

The fact that this song has been adopted as a major theme for Argentina fills me with awe and admiration. It is incredible to me the power that music has to bring so many people together and to empower them to do amazing things together as one. This experience has inspired me to focus my future research project on empowerment through music, specifically for children. The academic director has informed me of a possible volunteer opportunity for me in which I would help with a music and art school for children from a poorer neighborhood in Buenos Aires. This specific school was founded by young people from the neighborhood, which is both fantastic and intriguing to me. My job would most likely be really similar to what I did when I went to Bolivia last summer, but as of right now I do not have many details. I would love to get the opportunity to meet the people who started and continue to run this school as well as the children who attend it. It is really truly the best of everything: working with children, learning about the lives of those in disadvantaged situations, meeting an incredible group of people who believe in the power of music, researching more about the benefits and detriments of music education, and simply playing guitar and singing for hours. What more could I ask for?

I have been here in Buenos Aires for almost two weeks and I have definitely had my share of challenges. What this song has reminded me is that the important thing is to not be afraid to face them, to know that no matter what comes my way or brings me down, I can and I will rise up again. Like a cicada, singing songs to the sun.      

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