I just heard back from a close friend in Chile and thought this would be a good place to pass along word of the Chilean jazz community in the wake of the mega-earthquake that hit the country over the weekend. Santiago Cerda Contreras (pictured) is a jazz composer, arranger and director of Los Andes Big Band, Chile’s preeminent jazz ensemble.
I just caught up with Santiago via gchat — apparently power has just been restored to his village of Penaflor in the past few hours. He told me that nobody in his family has been hurt, and that the Chilean jazz community as a whole has not suffered any personal tragedies. Los Andes Big Band had a close call, though, having just returned from a tour in the tsunami-ravaged southern coastal region.
He also added, however, that “the people of Chile are not well. Much has been destroyed as it was very strong. A mega-disaster.” The country is still paralyzed as rescue teams, the military and international aid organizations “do the best that they can.”
Sadly, Santiago also reports that the Club de Jazz de Santiago did not fare well in the earthquake, and the band is searching for a new place to rehearse. The CJS was my home away from home (away from home) when I lived in Santiago in 2005, so this is very sad news for me personally. But his take on the whole thing was both comforting and inspirational. He pointed out that Chile has a pretty big earthquake about every 10 years, and a mega-quake like this one every 100 years or so. The country has survived this sort of thing before, so nobody is panicking. “Asi es la vida en Chile” — “That’s life in Chile.” But he is also realistic: “The shock of it has passed, now comes the worse part: the dead. But little by little we will return to normalcy and start to work again with the big band.”
If I hear anything else I will be sure to post it here. In the meantime, please keep the jazz musicians of Chile in your thoughts as they make their way back to normalcy in the next few months. It has been three and a half years since I’ve been back there, and this just makes me miss my musical compadres down there even more. But it is a huge relief to know that everyone is alright and that the unshakable determination that characterizes Santiago and many others in the jazz world there couldn’t be rattled even by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake.
Here’s a clip of Santiago’s Los Andes Big Band playing one of his original compositions, “La Portena”: