“To mourn death is to disrespect life.” After his shocking murder in Guatemala City last Saturday, Facundo Cabral’s own words ring with a sad resonance. Many have ignored these words however and openly mourned this great Argentine folk singer. Impassioned vigils have taken place across Latin America.
22nd May 1937 marked the beginning of Cabral’s life. From what can only be described as humble beginnings, much is publicised about the struggles and challenges he faced. His father abandoned him soon after birth, along with his mother and siblings, and life continued to bring hardships. At the age of nine he left home to look for work, infamously walking 3,000km, with the aim of reaching Buenos Aires to talk with then President Juan Domingo Perón, who promised to give the poor work.
Cabral’s career and relationship with music begun after he escaped prison, where he was carrying out a sentence for violent behaviour. This period behind bars saw him learn how to read and write, and crucially the beginnings of his involvement with Christianity.
Success was initially evasive. Under the artistic name ‘El Indio Gasparino’ his first songs were not well received. However by 1970, and under his own name, he was enjoying widespread popularity. This was especially the case after the release of ‘No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá’ – arguably his most famous song.
The late 1970s brought heartache for Cabral. Not only did he lose both his wife and one-year-old daughter in a plane crash, he was also exiled by the Military Junta from Argentina in 1976. Labelled a protest singer by the dictatorship, he returned to Argentina in 1984 a sacred name to the Argentine people. This period in exile also brought Cabral immense international success, especially in Latin America and his ‘second home’ of Mexico.
Cabral’s murder will secure his position as one of the greats of Argentine music. However his life story, which also includes surviving cancer and being named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1996, and his beautiful, passionate songs should not be overlooked. His music is lyrical and melodic. It is also haunting and evokes a whole range of emotions. Maybe that is now because of his tragic death, or maybe it is because of sad life story, but ultimately it must be because of his great skill as a musician and lyricist.
Dates Active: 1954-2011
In his own words: ”I always ask God, why did you give me so much? You gave me misery, hunger, happiness, struggle, lights…. I saw everything. I know there is cancer, syphilis, spring and apple fritters in the world”
Most famous song: No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá
Best lyric: ‘There is half the world waiting, with a flower in their hand, and the other half are waiting, for that flower’
Famous for: Cabral will probably become most famous for his death. However his life story, and all the struggles within it, will remain a fascinating story to tell.
Best to listen to: Just want to sit and think, maybe have a little cry? Stick this on, and feel the emotion in the lyrics and the instruments.