[su_label type=”info”]The Devil’s Advocate [/su_label]

Rafael Manriquez and his daughter Marci Valdivieso perform at the Vicente Feliu concert at Brava Theater in 2012. Courtesy: Marci Valdivieso

I was fortunate enough to be a friend and colleague of the great Chilean singer and composer Rafael Manriquez, who left us (too early) about four years ago.

If heaven exists, then Rafael is there with Violeta Parra, Victor Jara and so many others, organizing incredible folkloric “Peñas” (traditional music places) and stirring things up in the celestial sphere with his voice and his guitar.

Even so, with or without a heaven, his music remains. It is alive in his recordings or because his compositions are interpreted by many people, but, most primarily, through the efforts of his daughter Marci.

She and her husband, Ricardo Valdivieso and their three daughters, organize a yearly event that they have billed as “The Rafael Manríquez Festival.” This year will be the third annual celebration of music and poetry and this “Devil’s Advocate” will have the honor of being the emcee (and, I may even be allowed to sing a tune or two).

I spoke with Marci a couple of days ago. I wanted to know the reasons behind that logistic persistence. Obviously, it’s natural for a daughter to want to keep the memory of her father alive, but the effort required by this annual concert—which in addition to promoting Rafael’s music, promotes his unpublished poetry—profoundly affected me. I wanted to touch that streak of love.

So, after savoring a tasty eggplant dish prepared by Marci, paired with luckily ever-present red wine, we began our conversation and I asked her what inspired her to do what she does.

“Well… besides that fact that Rafita was my father, he left a tremendous body of work. When he was alive, he did not have the opportunity to perform his music. He always played what the contracting party wanted.  The songs of Silvio Rodriguez, or Violeta… but he almost never sung his own compositions.”

I witnessed that, on many occasions I asked Rafael why he did not sing more of his own songs. I attributed it to the fact that Rafita was a very modest man, who, instead of trying to place himself at the center of the picture (as is practiced by “not my president,” that so called “tramposo”), would yield the places of privilege. Or he would share them.

Marci adds: “I am fully aware of the excellent level, the depth of my father’s music—very prolific. He was always sharing his latest material: ‘Look, I have this one… here’s another’”

When I ask Marci, when she first started to sing, she tells me that it was her father who inspired her.

Rafael Manriquez and his daughter Marci Valdivieso rehearsing in Berkeley in 1987. Courtesy: Marci Valdivieso

“He gifted me with my first guitar… and, he also taught me the other side of things… I did not grow up with him. I grew up with my maternal grandparents in New York. They were much more conservative than my dad. From the time, I was four years old, my dad gave me a progressive view of the world, more open, defending the indigenous peoples of our continent… as opposed to what others would say. I was only able to live with him from age 17 to 19, but before that he would send me cassettes with music, where he also spoke to me… or, he would send me books.”

“What books did your father send you?” I asked.

Marci laughed: “‘Das Capital’—I was 11 years old. ‘The Captain’s Verses’ [Pablo Neruda], Gabriela Mistral’s poems, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ [Gabriel Garcia Márquez]. Of course, I read them, my dad gave them to me! And that’s how I became more open politically.”

Marci sang with her father for the first time when she was 14. “It was at La Peña Cultural Center, in Berkeley. He introduced me. Everything was shaking, my hands, my legs, everything. It probably looked very strange… but it was okay.”

Marci did not just grow up away from her father, but her mother died when she was just a year old. That sad fact has profoundly affected her. I asked her about that experience. Marci pauses briefly and her forehead crinkles somewhat, before speaking. When she speaks her voice is stronger, as if remembering something that needs to be clarified, with a shining gaze:

“My dad did not speak much about her, but I know that it pained him… some said that my dad was a ‘good for nothing nobody,’ but that is not true! Not at all! He was talented, dedicated, committed and loving. Not just as a dad but as a friend.”

Marci’s immediate family are the main (almost sole) organizers of the annual concert in honor of Rafael Manríquez. Something that is not very easy to do.

“We need grants, donations, nonprofit organizations that can support us. We have received a lot of support from musicians, friends, and the media… Sometimes they give us airtime on the radio or the TV… but even so, it’s not enough. We will keep doing it, as long as it’s possible”

Marci sighed deeply. And her gaze shined once again: “The concert is an act of love. Communal. A musical and poetic creating that makes us laugh, cry and think. Rafael’s music must be known. It must be sung.”

We will be there. You are all invited to share in a loving musical inheritance.

The third annual Rafael Manríquez Festival happens June 10 at 8 p.m. at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, in Berkeley.