Playing in the Prison that held you captive – 2 compañeros from back in the day

Around 1984 I was living in a bedsit loft in Hackney, post doing 2 degrees at Essex University, and getting back into all things London. It was a buzzing time in the area. Most weekends soundsystems could be heard humming familiar bass lines passing through poorly insulated walls and ceilings, and you might wonder still why I like Dub. During this time, through my flat mate Alister I met all kinds of interesting people from all over the world. We were all in some way linked as political nomads of sorts, people who had either been forcefully uprooted from their place of birth or had at some point in their lives decided to up and leave the pressures of what they left behind them.

One of the things that attracted me was the sounds of Latin Americans in exile. My friend Lukax Santana, a political refugee from Chile, had escaped Pinochet’s fascist regime by coming to London. The capital gloomy and usually raining was however bustling with sounds from South America. The London School of Samba, Inti Illimani, Dave Hucker spinning discs at The Sol Y Sombre and a strange  little experimental outfit called Quilombo Expontáneo ( Q.E. ) which Lukax was the percussive part of. Q.E once played Essex University, I think that was one of their first gigs. It must have been 1984 and it was a wonderfully weird concoction of sounds and things played spontaneously. Most people present at the gig expected Andean flute pipes but they got one of the most surrealist acoustic performances of their lives. ‘Ere’ someone asked me ‘was that bloke really playing the bendy hoover pipe with his mouth whilst rotating it above his head like a helicopter’.

One night Alister came to the flat with a friend. ‘Mike this is Mauricio – Mauricio this is Mike’ and the rest was up to us. I did not know who I was talking to but soon found out he was a poet and singer who had been imprisoned and tortured by the Naval Secret Police under Pinochet’s regime. We talked for a couple of hours about poetry and music with me realizing how limited and backward my thinking was. Those moments with Mauricio Redolés changed me so much that whenever I hear his name or read one of his poems or hear a song I know this is one of the few people in life who shone some light on my creative poetic mind in troubled times. ‘You are trying so hard’ he told me ‘why make it sound like a lecture, it’s too didactic’ and from that time, whenever the inspiration has taken me, songs, lyrics, poems flow free without the habit I had before of writing in a routine way about everything and anything. Mauricio taught me not to provide answers all the time, leave some questions in people’s minds, and  upset a few people, annoy the establishment, whoever they may be, as well. I felt like I was listening to the Chilean equivalent of John Cooper-Clarke.

Now the free flowing approach and that sense of spontaneity I owe rhythmically to my friend for life Lukax Santana, who I reconnected with recently via LinkedIn (of all places). Lukax is now based in Chile after decades of living in exile in London. We did so many gigs together and no one gig was ever the same. Some times in band settings other musicians found this tricky to deal with but he always smiled and said ‘don’t worry I will follow you’ proceeding of course to improvise again. Lukax is a humble, relaxing soul who I never had an argument with. I don’t know if this is a healthy thing as in most relationships it’s good to have differences. We did disagree on a few things but we never disagreed on playing music, unless of course he had another gig somewhere else already booked! This wise friend could play a rhythm on a match box if he had to and whenever I worked with him things were easy, cool, no pressure, no worries, just music and feeling your heart beat to the flow.  Lukax will always have two things over me – that famous surname – comes in handy saying I used to play with ‘Santana’ in the 80’s and 90’s and, he played in Cyprus before me, thanks to our mutual friend and compañero Costis Ahniotis – RiP.

Mauricio, who I only met once, and Lukax, who I performed with countless times, recently did a gig together in Santiago Chile on March 8th 2018. On this day the old prison where they were held as political prisoners in 1973 was declared a National Monument and they played live there together, 2 compañeros from back in the day, in the prison where they were once tortured and detained. Hoping we will link again soon…and be 3 compañeros….

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