Released to mark the 40th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death in 1967, Lucha por la Vida (Struggle for Life) uses the idea of political revolution as a trope for musical insurgency – and pulls together a half-decent compilation in the process. Even if the Argentine-born Guevara never met many of the musicians featured here, he personified a rebellious spirit that surfaced in various ways – in Brazil’s tropicalismo, Chile’s discovery of its indigenous folk music and Argentina’s tango.
Lucha por la Vida is the fruitful product of a trawl through the jazz archives of Warner Chile, Editions Milan, the Cuban label Egrem and others. With much of the music coming from the 1950s and 1960s, it’s also a time capsule of frenetic activity. Of course, other revolutionary ideas were entering the realm of popular music in Latin America during that period. Raul Seixa’s wonderful ‘Metamorphose ambulante’ has a hazy, psychedelic quality that owes much to the Beatles or Byrds; and Santana’s famous instrumental ‘Samba Pa’ti’ puts the electric guitar solo at the heart of the Mexican rhythm machine. Inti Illimani and Illapa go through their airy paces – this is folk music which in its very existence asserts an indigenous right to life. And the two Astor Piazzola tangos are just plain dangerous.
Is it frustrating that what artist and song information given by the slim, single-language booklet accompanying the CD is so scant? Yes.