By Christopher Alexander Gellert
Paulo, Pablo, Pablo, Paolo and Marcelo.
A night a while back I turned to introduce Pablo and before I could stumble, forget and mispronounce his name, he cut me off. “Not Paulo, not Paolo and not pololo.”
Pololo — boyfriend — is a sure way to know someone’s from Chile.
For six months now, I arrive home from work and pause before my door, humming. I open it to guitars, keys, song — there are days of drums. I live with the Díaz brothers, Marcelo and Paulo, the band’s drummer and lead singer.
I stow my bike, put on the water and listen to Chile.
The Beatles are a good point of reference. You can hear the same search for life, their delight in music. There’s something of the carelessness of the Beach Boys, and critics have compared the band’s trajectory and style to Australian contemporaries, Tame Impala.
But their music belongs to Concepción, Julia Smith’s home. To honor folk singer Violeta Parra on her birthday and rejoice in The Day of Music, the city threw a jubilee, and all the bands came, the same bands that mentored and shaped the boys. And Julia Smith came, too.
Concepción is the birthplace of Chilean rock. If Santiago is a glut of people and power, and considers itself the country’s cultural heart, the music, like the city, gets lost in smog. It’s the kind of cosmopolis where everyone starts to sound like Katy Perry.
Concepción, Chile’s second metropolitan area, is a small town. Everyone goes to the same couple of bars, and everyone knows your name. It’s the kind of place that nurtures young artists and veteran musicians return to after the wear of other parts. Pancho Molina, drummer for the Chilean rock band Los Tres, just came home after a successful turn in New York as a jazz musician.
The boys are ready for their vagabond days, guitars slung over their shoulders, drumsticks tucked away, ready to be seen and heard. A few months back they released their first music video, “A Través de ti,” filmed on a tight budget on the roof of a local mall. The first of their planned concerts is an appearance next month at the Pulsar Festival. They have been working for this chance to resound since they formed the band in 2011.
A few weeks back, I caught Marcelo keeping vigil, perched on the couch, his eyes fixed in space. He couldn’t sleep, too conscious of the changes ahead, thrilled at this chance for their music to move others, color the world.
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Christopher Alexander Gellert is an English teacher at DuocUC in Concepción, Chile. A U.S. citizen who has lived and studied in France, his poetry has appeared in Belleville Park Pages, where you can read “Chopping Onions” and “Nights of Sleeping”. He also writes critical essays for Soonest Mended.