Sunday, October 11, 2009

One week on

When Mercedes Sosa died on the morning of Sunday 4th October, Argentina went into mourning.

The folklore icon, whose distinguishable and powerful voice charmed the world for more than forty years, had suffered with ongoing respiratory troubles and died in hospital early Sunday morning from problems related to kidney disease.

La Negra (the black one), as she was lovingly known, was born in the north-western city of San Miguel de Tucamán in 1936 on the ninth of July, Argentine Independence Day. She was discovered after winning a competition in her home province aged fifteen; and went on to become one of the most respected Argentine artists of her generation.

During her long career, Mercedes Sosa toured the world, sharing her unique style and voice in venues from the Sistine Chapel, to the Coliseum, to Carnegie Hall.

In the 1970s she lived in exile in both Paris and Madrid, while the political climate in Argentina during the Military dictatorship, and her left wing views, made life at home unsafe. She returned to Argentina in 1982.

When the news of her death was announced, President Cristina Kirchner ordered three days national mourning. Television news programmes broadcasted one hour specials, and radio stations played songs from her forty albums.

‘Argentina and the music world has lost somebody special in their hearts, but we’ll always have her music’ said Viviana, one of the thousands queuing in the streets outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, to attend Mercedes’ wake.

Argentine rocker Charly Garcia and television host Susanna Giménez joined other stars to say goodbye. Inside musicians played acoustic guitars and the crowds sang in an attempt to keep the mood upbeat.

‘Divine, divine divine,’ is how one of her brothers described her.

And when asked what Mercedes was like at home during a family barbeque, her nephew said, ‘she just wanted to be one of the family at home, not Mercedes Sosa.’

Respected for her tenderness and her desire to sing what she believed, Mercedes Sosa was the voice of the voiceless ones. Her most famous song is Gracias a la vida (Thanks to life)

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