Sunday, March 1, 2015
Atahualpa Yupanqui (1908 –1992) was an Argentine singer, songwriter, guitarist, and writer. He is considered the most important Argentine folk musician of the 20th century.
Yupanqui was born as Héctor Roberto Chavero Aranburu in Pergamino in the Argentine pampas. His father was a Criollo descended from indigenous people, while his mother was born in the Basque country. In a bow to two legendary Incan kings, he adopted the stage name Atahualpa Yupanqui, which became famous the world over.
In his early years, Yupanqui became radicalized and joined the Communist Party of Argentina. In 1931, he took part in the failed Kennedy brothers uprising against the de facto government of José Félix Uriburu. After the uprising was defeated, he was forced to seek refuge in Uruguay. He returned to Argentina in 1934.
Because of his Communist Party affiliation (until 1952), his work suffered from censorship during Juan Perón's presidency; he was detained and incarcerated several times. He left for Europe in 1949. Édith Piaf invited him to perform in Paris on 7 July 1950.
In 1952, Yupanqui returned to Buenos Aires. He broke with the Communist Party, which made it easier for him to book radio performances. Recognition of Yupanqui's ethnographic work became widespread during the 1960s, and nueva canción artists such as Facundo Cabral, Mercedes Sosa and Jorge Cafrune recorded his compositions and made him popular among the younger musicians, who referred to him as Don Ata.
In 1989, an important cultural center of France, the University of Nanterre, asked Yupanqui to write the lyrics of a cantata to commemorate the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. The piece, entitled "The Sacred Word" (Parole sacrée), was released before high French authorities. It was not a recollection of historical facts but rather a tribute to all the oppressed peoples that freed themselves. Yupanqui died in Nîmes, France in 1992 at the age of 84; his remains were cremated and dispersed on his beloved Colorado Hill on 8 June 1992.