From its formation in 1971, ILLAPU (“Lightning” in Quechua, an indigenous language of the Andes) has maintained an ascending rhythm in the creation of a project that is singularly aesthetic, innovative, experimental, always expanding, and, finally, beautifully conceived. Illapu is a musical fusion that has become, through the years, an aesthetic musical proposal as well as a dream, inspiring new generations of listeners.
The musical genealogy of Illapu is found in the profound rivers of the Andean world. Since its beginning, the group has cultivated with unequalled mastery the instruments and rhythms of the Andes, which gives it its signature sound. Incorporating the experiences of world travels, Illapu has been able to expand its musical background beyond the Andean frontiers. Today the discography of Illapu has accumulated endless articulations, sounds, rhythms and counter-rhythms, melodic nuances, silences, and harmonic constructions that have moved Illapu from a musical mosaic to an amalgam of unique sounds impossible to separate.
From the beginning, Illapu has sung to the emerging and urgent problems of Chile, Latin America, and humanity. Its lyrics talk about daily life, justice, the preservation of ancient Latin American culture, the contradictions between human beings and nature, and the tensions created in the process of modernization. The majority of its songs are written by members of the group, who have also incorporated into their lyrics the great songs of the Nobel Laureate poet Pablo Neruda, and poets such as Mario Benedetti, Roque Dalton…
The instrumental foundations of Illapu are of great variety. Its recordings include the use of Andean melodic instruments such as zampoñas (panpipes) and quenas (Andean flute), juxtaposed with rhythmic instruments such as the African djembe or the kultrun of the Mapuche people of southern Chile, as well as congas and drum-sets. Added to these are stringed instruments such as the 12-metal-stringed tiple from Colombia, the cavaquinho from the Northeast of Brazil, the Venezuelan cuatro, and the Bolivian charango. Beyond this array of sounds are also saxophones and silver flutes, topped by electro-acoustic guitars and synthesizers. Illapu is a group that experimentally fuses Andean roots with elements of improvisational jazz, the harmonic constructions and counterpoints of classical music, and the syncopation and polyrhythms of Afro-Caribbean music, all combined with the irresistible terrestrial force of rock music.
The aesthetic, poetic, and musical project of Illapu has allowed the public to expand its musical horizons. With perseverance and creative strength Illapu has opened up new paths. It is this synthesis – the mix of ancestral sounds with new ones, the experimental and the unpredictable – which has given the group its followers in the national and international arena.