Chileans worth knowing: Mauricio Redolés

In what's been a terrible year for musical icons, it would have been devastating if Mauricio Redolés had joined Bowie and Prince, and yet, he probably would have been amused.

At the end of August this year, the poet and musician suffered a brain hemorrhage that had fans fearing for his life. Great displays of support followed, but Redolés himself sent reassuring signs that his legendary self-deprecating humor was as alive as ever. Within days of the incident he posted a picture on Facebook where he claimed to be “the real chopico” (chopico = hecho pico = gutted). He followed up with a thank you to his supporters by claiming that he was “working hard to get out of the contract he'd signed for a gig with Juan Gabriel” (the Mexican singer who died in August this year).

 Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Redolés
Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Redolés

So who is this character? Redolés was born in 1953 and grew up in Quinta Normal, a charming, middle-class neighbourhood of Santiago that he calls Bello Barrio. As a young communist deeply involved in politics, he was detained and tortured after the military coup of 1973. He was later relegated to Melinka and eventually exiled to the UK. While in London he started writing poetry and recording songs. He frequently refers to those years away from his homeland, and occasionally sings in his funny English.

 Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Redolés
Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Redolés

After 10 years in exile he returned to Chile, formed a backup band (Son Ellos Mismos) and recorded his breakout effort “Bello Barrio” in 1985. The album's excellent mix of humor, romanticism, politics and clever lyrics resonated within a country that was ready to leave the Pinochet years behind. This led to his status as “poeta de culto”. He's well recognized by his peers, having earned the Premio Altazor in 2009 and 2014.

In a nutshell, Mambricio (as he is known to his fans), is above all a masterful poet of the obscure bird that is the Chilean language. His lyrics speak for themselves, and so we leave you with two samples as an exercise. If you think you can understand two out of three of the following, your knowledge of Chilean language and cultural references is outstanding. If not, keep on learning!

Triste Funcionario Policial
¿Qué será de mi torturador?
Habrá ganado un viaje a Panamá
o a EEUU agarro beca, quizás
o talvez al final no pasó na'

Se le habrá caido el pelo
tanto golpe dar, se habrá puesto más feo
se le habrá caido un diente
con las cabras amarradas seguirá tan caliente

Me pegaba en forma profesional
queria algo confesional
me pegaba en forma diligente
¡Confiesa que eres dirigente!

Se habrá retirado del servicio
o estará viejito en un hospicio
soñará con muertos como yo
soñará con desfiles de banderas rojas como vos

¿Qué será de mi torturador?
¿Qué será de mi torturador?
me habrá visto en la micro
me quería poner corriente en el pico
coopera, huevón, coopera
salva a Chile comunista infeliz

No importa
Hay viejos culiaos que no creen en nuestro amor... no importa
Hay viejos culiaos que no creen en la liberación de la mujer... no importa
Hay viejos culiaos que no creen en la rebelión importa
Hay viejos culiaos que no creen que en un poema se puede decir viejo culiao... no importa
No importa si yo la quiero, y usted me quiere.
escuchemos la mitad de la humanidad que sangra una vez al mes por toda la humanidad, no importa.

Avivemos la cueca punk, no importa
escribamos poemas llenos de groserias y metamonos el espiritu al bolsillo perro.... no importa.

 Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Redolés
Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Redolés

Redolés has received an outpouring of support from his fans, who have been attending charity events and scooping up special editions of his work, including a Bello Barrio box set that includes the $1000 bill in the picture above. Upon learning that Bob Dylan received the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, Redolés, ever the folk singer, quoted some of his own lines:

“Yo no soy el Bob Dylan chileno.
El es el Mauricio Redolés Norteamericano.
He vendido menos discos que él,
eso tengo que reconocerlo”.

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