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POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Inti-Illimani Shows Range of Significance in Its Songs

November 11, 1996|ENRIQUE LOPETEGUI

To call Inti-Illimani simply a "political group" after its nearly three decades on the international music scene borders on an insult. As a capacity audience saw Friday night at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium, this group's ideology is expressed in a marvelous and inventive musical vision that continues to expand.

Inti-Illimani's music is a feast for both the brain and the soul, and the songs from its latest album, "Arriesgare la piel" (I Will Risk My Skin), were as significant in this concert as the group's classic compositions.

The eight multi-instrumental members of Inti-Illimani (mostly Chileans, but also from Cuba and Ecuador) are among the best string players in Latin American folk, and the original songs are decorated with subtle beauty that, despite the complexity of the arrangements, never sounds pretentious.

Instead of simply relying on its early, classic hymns, Inti-Illimani has continued over the years to create music that is increasingly sophisticated and challenging. The group draws upon a wide array of Latin American folk styles, from bolero to cueca, to provide a lesson in how this genre should sound in the '90s and to make it clear that the Inti-Illimani--which was once forced into exile because of its leftist views in Chile--is as important today as it was in the '70s.

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