Singing the Struggle: The Trials of a Political Minstrel
Mexican musician Andrés Contreras’ speech at the 14th biennial conference held in Mexico by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, IASPM.
Friday 29 June 2007: Plenary popular and unpopular musics, 9:30 – 11:30
By Andrés Contreras
It is a great honor for me to be with you today. My name is Andres Contreras, the Minstrel of the Roads. The minstrels were characters that roamed throughout medieval Europe, and as you know, the Middle Ages are also known as the Dark Ages which lasted from the collapse of the Roman Empire in 410 A.C. until the fall of Constantinople under the power of the Turks on a Tuesday, May 29h, 1453.
It was a long night for humanity, where the great empires of Europe, allied with the church, tried to make disappear the traditions, the culture, the science, the art of each country, including popular music, so that the conquered people would never have the incentive to shake off the shackles of the oppressors, that was in Europe, in America, that darkness lasted several centuries longer, but that’s another story.
There were some characters that destroyed the plans to make disappear the popular music, and those were the minstrels that would go from town to town singing the popular music and narrating in verse recent events, news, tragedies, etc.
They were the media of the time, the people depended on them, but they were always under the observation of the Inquisitors, who considered the minstrels dangerous to their privileges which they shared with other predators of humanity.
Many minstrels were imprisoned, beaten, and some were burned alive… But they persevered because of all the popular support, since the people were against the disappearance of their traditional songs and courageously defended the minstrels, and that way the popular music was saved.
When I was a child, a book fell into my hands that spoke of the minstrels, that they would go from town to town, meeting many people, many places, learning about many things and I said to myself: when I grow up, I want to be a minstrel, and here I am with you today. Just like the minstrels from long ago were persecuted, whipped, jailedados, killed, a modern minstrel at your service, in this twenty first century that has just begun I have not freed myself from suffering the luck of my predecessors.
I have suffered more than 50 imprisonments, death threats, mistreatment and destruction of my music material, the most recent in the city of Guadalajara. Harassment by police wherever I stand to perform, especially in Puebla, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Estado de México, Oaxaca and Chiapas, which are some of the states of Mexico where there is the most violations of human rights and freedom of expression.
If there is time and you will permit me, I will try to interpret a potpourri of some of my songs so that in a short time you can get to know a little of my work as a minstrel.
If anyone would like to know more about the work of this servant, I have with me some music material, and if anyone is interested, I can provide some internet sites where I have downloaded thirteen original songs and parodies.
Thank you and welcome to México, one of the countries in the world where there is much violations of human rights of musicians of alternative music.
Andrés Contreras – “el juglar de los caminos”
Read more about the International Accosiation for the Study of Popular Music 14th Biennial Conference: