Home » The historic return of Mercedes Sosa to Argentina in 1982 told in an unmissable book – Diario RÃo Negro

The historic return of Mercedes Sosa to Argentina in 1982 told in an unmissable book – Diario RÃo Negro

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The historic return of Mercedes Sosa to Argentina in 1982 told in an unmissable book – Diario RÃo Negro

With a journey that includes in-depth journalistic archival work and unpublished photographs that give an account not only of a character but also of a key era in the country, the book “And a million hands that applaud me” recovers with data, anecdotes and witnesses, the details and vicissitudes of Mercedes Sosa’s return to Argentina after her exile during the dictatorship, when she offered a string of legendary recitals: “it was the first time that people met again.” en masse to see an artist,” highlights Facundo Arroyo, the author of the text.

42 years ago Mercedes Sosa returned from exile to do what had never been done before in Argentine popular music: sing in thirteen recitals, with Argentine rock figures as guests, in the midst of a military dictatorship.

Three years and four months before that, he had given the last recital prior to his exile, in October 1978, at the Almacén San José in La Plata. That night she gave a show to 300 people, although many more listened to her from the sidewalk because they could not enter due to the capacity of the place. Her audience knew that she was going to touch on some forbidden topics. When “When I have the land†sounded, a group of police officers burst onto the scene and took Mercedes, her son Fabián Matus, and a large part of the public, who were later key witnesses to reconstruct these events, as prisoners.

With this information as a starting point, the journalist and writer Facundo Arroyo explores in “And a million hands that applaud me” (Gourmet musical), one of the most important historical events in the life and work of Mercedes Sosa, which It is barely addressed in other texts such as “La Negra”, by Rodolfo Braceli, and is a fundamental part of the singer’s artistic legacy.

In the living room of Arroyo’s house there was always a framed photo in which his mother and Mercedes Sosa were posing, hugging. The image was taken at the exit of a show at Luna Park: together with Celia, Facundo’s aunt, they waited for the singer and stayed chatting with her for a while. “The black one,†at that moment, she accepted the photo and wished them a Merry Christmas.

That image in the family home is the basis of the sentimental education of the journalist, who fell asleep several nights in the chairs of La Salamanca, in Cosquín, where his parents took him when he was still very young and at times he got bored. Popular music injected into the veins (and also into customs).

The Tucumán singer greets the public upon her arrival at the Opera Theater.

With an important display of images, the book includes previously unpublished photos of the artist: playing at the Bobino theater in France; traveling by car from Ezeiza to her apartment, recently arrived from exile, and even shots of the entrance to the Teatro Ópera where Sosa performed the performances. All of them donated by Fabián Matus, the singer’s son.
In a zoom interview with Arroyo, the author dismantles the creative process that led him, based on a journalistic profile written for a media outlet, to undertake this book with a prologue by Teresa Parodi and Romina Zanellato.

Q: What reasons are there, so many years later, to write a book about a specific event of a singer-songwriter who was an icon of an era?
Facundo Arroyo:
One of the paradigms of the most important musicians of popular culture in Argentina is that some are performers, and the performers over time disappear in the cultural sphere, precisely because the songs are not reproduced, the songs are from others. This is also what happens with Cafrune, for example. This is a concept by Sergio Pujol and it is super proven. I presented the book recently at Cosquín Folklore, where all the historical music journalists are, and they all feel the same: outside the bubble, Mercedes’ name is beginning to be less present. And that’s because she was a performer and not a composer. In the music industry, performers tend to disappear more than composers.

All musicologists assure that it sold a lot during the subsequent ten years, the album ended up being released in more than ten countries and that does not have verifiable numbers either. But there are many indications that it outsold even “Love After Love.”

Facundo Arroyo, author of the book “And a million hands that applaud me.”

On the other hand, we rushed the edition to publish it in the 40 years of democracy, and because we also saw that we were facing a new neoliberal government. It seemed important to us that Mercedes’ voice appear at that moment. She provoked a question and a new reflection, because she was one of the fundamental voices in the fight for a more egalitarian and free society. At the same time, I believe that there are outbreaks of it, especially in female artists, not only in folk culture but also in other areas. In fact Marilina Bertoldi referred to her as the first woman winner of the Gardel de Oro when she won hers. Those little things were appearing in Argentine popular music, details, colors. Then I think of Nadia Larcher, a reference for the new breed of folk culture.

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Q: You recovered a phrase from her that says: “The idea of ​​becoming a martyr scares me,†and I thought that in the book she does not appear as such. What do you think about this, Mercedes Sosa was a martyr?
She doesn’t end up being a martyr because she can come back, in fact she ends up doing what she wanted to do at the beginning, which was a tour with this show throughout the country, closing at the Ferro Stadium. He couldn’t do that in February 1982, but he ended up doing it in his second round. At the shows he made songs that he said he was not going to make, and six weeks later the Malvinas war broke out. When he returned, in October or November of ’82, he toured the interior with many security problems, threats and persecution. There is a documentary about that Ferro called “Like a Free Bird,” but that was a different context, it is very noticeable in the tone of his statements. He leaves the ellipses, becomes more direct, lowers more line. Returning to the martyr’s point, she suffered greatly from exile, which caused her mental and physical health problems. At that time she played at the Bobino theater, where she played Edith Piaf and the greats of French music. It was the first line of popular music in the world. But she did not accept the uprooting, and she was bad until she was able to return. That is why, more than a martyr, she became the first sun of democracy in cultural terms in Argentina; it was the first time that people gathered en masse again to see an artist. That, I think, erases the figure of a martyr.

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The Opera Theater hosted a celebration of popular music.

Q: In the book the idea slips that, after Gardel, we have not had a popular idol as immense as her. Why? What do they have?
They know Mercedes, like Piazzola or Gardel, in Japan, in France, in the world. Throughout Latin America, even in countries where Argentine music did not have as much impact. Everyone sings Gardel songs. In fact, Gardel opened a front for tango to reach countries like Colombia, for example. I come across reggaeton artists who talk about Gardel. That is one of the characteristics they share. The other is singing.

Q: In “And a million hands that applaud me†there are many references to the media coverage of the event: Clarín, El DÃa, Revista Humor. Was this a journalist’s vice, or did the topic require that work?
Both. But doing that work I discovered a lot of things, I came across quite particular situations. In the newspaper library I came across, for good, great coverage from the newspaper news. On the negative side, with the Revista Pelo archive I was surprised that they didn’t even make a mention. At that time and in that context they were the only cultural magazine, along with Expreso imaginario, which was more counterculture, that were being published. It was known that he was going to play with Charly for the first time; Antonio Tarragó Ros and León Gieco appeared in Revista Pelo, and there was no record of this fact. A very serious fault.

Q: You propose that the album “Mercedes Sosa in Argentina†could be the best-selling album of popular music until “Love after love,†although you say that there is no data to verify this. Why?
The producer of the album was (Daniel) Grinbank and he held the rights for eight months. In those eight months it sold, in Argentina alone, one million copies. That figure is very close to the sales figure for “Love After Love.” Eight months later, Grinbank sold rights to Polygram, and Polygram had a hiatus of several years where it did not register its sales in Argentina. All musicologists assure that it sold a lot during the subsequent ten years, the album ended up being released in more than ten countries and that does not have verifiable numbers either. But there are many indications that it outsold even “Love After Love.”

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Q: At one point you maintained that Sosa got rid of traditional folklore so that popular music “thrives and breathes.” What does this mean?
That question can be analyzed from the repertoire he does in those shows, which is paradigmatic. When she implodes in folklore she does so from the “new songbook”, a movement that was born in Mendoza that broke with the paradigm of naturalistic folklore: this singing to the mountains, to the river. And she became political, with committed poetry, with, for example, Armando Tejada Gómez. “The†voice of the new songbook was Mercedes Sosa, she was the captain of that movement. When she plays for the first time in Cosquín what happens is that she breaks the paradigm of one type of folklore and begins to forge another. In the repertoire of ’82 she once again breaks some paradigms, especially within the genre of Argentine popular music. Because that album has folklore, tango and rock, but not only that: it has both traditional and disruptive folklore, and so on with the other genres.

Q: Mercedes Sosa was recognized many times for her political commitment. How do you evaluate the relationship between musicians and politics today?
It seems a little childish to me to expect your artist to think like you all the time and to expect it to manifest the way you want it to manifest. It is one thing for the artist to be able or willing to express himself and another thing to ask him to do so. We saw the video of a trapera (Emilia Mernes) where the representative says “she doesn’t talk about this,†but there are also many artists who perhaps do not declare because she does not paint them. Or they do it their own way, like Adrián Dárgelos or Delio Valdés. In short, it is not necessary for them to go out and bitch on social networks to feel that they are on our side.

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