Interview with BrownPride.com Poet Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria
A lot of people know you as pachacutec on the BrownPride.com message boards but may not know too much about your background. Could you fill us in on your history?
I am a spoken word artist, poet, writer, and organizer of Peruvian heritage, who is heavily involved with local power house Palabristas (www.palabristas.com). I was born in Lima, Peru and moved to Minnesota in 1988. The culture shock had a big effect on me and I took up writing in a way to express my feelings and keep me sane. I started performing my artwork around the same time that Palabristas formed (2004). I was a college radio host with Con Safos Radio at Hamline University and I was in charged of "Spoken Word Spoken Lives", by performing my poetry on the radio it gave me confidence and I went to a local open mic. I got on stage, spit the poem and I was hooked. I believe that my job as a poet is not only to be a messenger to my audience but to my community. So I write about issues that I see in my community but also that affect me. I go to high schools and talk to kids about the power of spoken word. That it is a tool of liberation. A valid artistic expression.
In your poetry, you touch on a lot of pro-Latino issues. What else inspires you to express yourself through spoken word?
My surroundings, my everyday life experiences, my struggles, my kids, family, my victories. Overall, just my life. There is a reason why there is allot of pro-Latino issues on the album. We felt that this was the time to speak about things that people don't want to talk about, educate them if you will. We have lots of misinformed people out there and that adds to the tension, whether racial or not, that has taken over this country. We recorded over 30 tracks. Some got left out, but we picked the ones that would flow well but at the same time give an insight to me, and other voices. The album starts with a lot of old pieces from me and it ends with one of the newest piece. We wanted to show people the growth of me as an artist.
What is your process for writing poetry or a spoken word piece? Do you actually sit down with a pen and a pad and start writing or do you let ideas formulate in your head and just speak them as they come?
Both, actually. I try to sit down at least once a week and free write for about an hour, and then pick up sentences and phrases that I like and free write of those, that�s how condor's wings was born. But I also write from ideas that come to me. I write them down and when I get home at the end of the week I see what I have, and try to start writing a poem or two. Its hard thing to do, with a busy life and family, but I see it as healing time and reflection time.
As an actual stage performer of your art, how important is it for you to connect with the people who are listening to your performances?
I think it�s important but not crucial, the reason I started writing was for me. So if people don't connect to a poem or don't feel me on stage, that�s ok. Since I started writing I have been writing for me, so I don't see that changing. But the connection with the audience is important, I feed off the energy that people give and I like to involve the audience whenever possible. Also I think eye connection is key, that is why I memorize the poems so that way the connection with the audience is more direct. They see me and I see them. So they have to pay attention to what I say. Well at least try to.
Now let�s talk about the album. Desconocidos is covers a lot of different topics from immigration to motherhood to different life experiences. How long did it take you to put this album together?
Well it has taken me about 3 years. I was planning just to put out an ep really underground of some of the radio cuts I had made, but then I applied for a grant and won it. So the idea changed, and so did the direction. My life changed about three years ago, I was blessed with the birth of Isabella, so I decided to include within my work. I feel is important for fathers to have a great relationship with their kids, especially for girls. The way this world is set up it mostly favors men. Its unfair, unjust, so I think that its my job as a dad that I need to be there for my girls to teach them right from wrong and to stand up for what they believe in. I also feel that its crucial for fathers to be involved in their children's lives. Today's youth and my generation have seem to lost grasp of the meaning of family and what a man is really about. I mean just because you can make kids, it does not make you a man. What you do to influence and be there for your kids makes you a man. I touch on this on the poem healing. So fatherhood is very important to me and I write about it. Many fathers come up to me and tell me that they love that I write about that, because they feel that the good fathers out there don't get the credit and the way this society is made. Men aren't suppose to talk about their feelings, which is bullshit in my book. I feel empowered by my fatherhood experience not diminished by it. The album consists of live performances with palabristas, my views and great interludes. The interludes before Land of the Incas is a treat for all Peruanos and the interlude after monarch butterfly is a must have for anyone who believes in el pueblo unido.
Who else was involved in helping you complete the album?
Man, many people. All of the members of palabristas (not just Lorena, Larry and Brandon lacy Campos) had influence in this project. But also my experiences as an organizer. I really want to thank Marcos from decolonize.net for hooking up the beautiful artwork. Brandon from Big Quarters for the guidance and birth of the project and the community that supported me for the last 3 years. All the other spoken word poets that told me that this is something that needed to get done. My family for their enormous support and the kids in the high schools for their vision. Like I said, I am a product of my community. I am just glad I can give back.
When is the album scheduled to drop? Where is the album available for purchase?
The album will drop on 6.22.07. For the people who live in the Twin Cities there will be an album release show. Here are the details.
WHAT: Desconocidos Album Release featuring performances by Palabristas, Big Quarters, Tish Jones, Angel, and Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria with percussion provided by Quilombolas. FREE EVENT. Album will be for sale for $10.
WHEN: Friday, June 22nd, 8 p.m.
WHERE: The Loft, 1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415
People can buy the album on the myspace page.
or at local open mics. If anyone wants to get a hold of me [email protected]
Thanks for your time. Any parting words?
No gracias a ti hermano! Yes, that I hope people feel this album, support local artists and write. We are all writers. We all have that power. We just need to put it into practice.
Interview by Gerardo Garcia III for BrownPride.com