Multiculturalism Day performer brings diverse influences

Matt Gardner
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For this year’s Canadian Multiculturalism Day celebrations, the Prince Albert Multicultural Council (PAMC) chose as its featured performer a man who in many ways embodies the spirit of the day itself.

Musician and University of Saskatchewan professor Rodolfo Pino-Robles will be performing at the Prince Albert Multicultural Council on Friday at 7 p.m. for Canadian Multiculturalism Day. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

An acclaimed musician whose work mixes indigenous and Latin American influences, Rodolfo Pino-Robles is also a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, where he teaches in a wide variety of disciplines including sociology, native studies, religion and culture, political science, anthropology and Spanish.

“It’s an honour to be invited to P.A.,” he said. “My CD was recorded in P.A., so I have a connection to P.A. in many ways. I am very, very happy to be there.

“I’m very happy to be in Saskatchewan, and I hope that people can really wake up to understand the need of being multicultural -- to accept that OK, we have different ways of doing things. It’s not … superior or inferior, it’s simply a different way.”

Pino-Robles will perform at the PAMC on Friday at 7 p.m. alongside special guest Matt Remenda. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door and are available at the PAMC office or by calling 306-922-0400.

Executive director Shayne Lazarowich said that Pino-Robles, whom he described as “a really wise and very kind man,” was a perfect fit for the PAMC concert.

“He’s really, really good, and the small, intimate kind of concerts that we have would really lend itself well to the way he performs,” Lazarowich said.

“He likes to tell stories, talk about his songs. It’s quite nice, and also because a lot of the songs are Spanish … He comes from not just Latin American culture, but indigenous Latin American culture too, so he’s kind of multifaceted.”

“He’s a high-level performer,” Lazarowich added. “He’s played in stadiums and in front of thousands of people before.”

Originally from South America, Pino-Robles is a member of the Aymara First Nation, members of whom currently live in Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Peru. He moved to Canada in 1976.

Having performed across Latin America and Canada -- including at many fundraisers for humanitarian causes -- the U of S professor has won critical accolades for his guitar-playing and singing. His first CD, Alegria, received a nomination for Best Aboriginal Recording at the 2001 Prairie Music Awards.

Victor Jara was a very, very important person in my life, and of course I was very much affected when he was killed. Rodolfo Pino-Robles

One of the biggest influences on his style was the legendary Argentine folk musician Atahualpa Yupanqui, whose songs will be featured in the set list at Friday’s concert.

Another was the famous left-wing musician Victor Jara, who was tortured and executed by the U.S.-backed regime of General Augusto Pinochet following the 1973 military coup in Chile.

“He was my theatre teacher, so I knew him personally,” Pino-Robles said of Jara.

“Victor Jara was a very, very important person in my life, and of course I was very much affected when he was killed,” he added.

For Pino-Robles, the murder of his theatre teacher serves as a cautionary tale for the need to defend human rights in Canada.

“I won’t hide that ever -- my music is quite political,” he said. “In terms of defending aboriginal issues, in terms of defending human rights, I’ve been doing that for many, many years, and as I think mostly as a way of really involving people.

“I think the (more) we get people involved, the more we grow … I don’t consider myself … entertainment. I try to share a message.”

Since the 1970s and ’80s, the government of Canada has endorsed an official policy of multiculturalism.

But Pino-Robles said that the country still has a long way to go towards realizing those ideals in practice. As an example, he noted that officially, Canada remains a bilingual nation only.

Nevertheless, he pointed to signs of growing understanding over the years -- not just on a national level, but locally in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.

The professor argued that Multiculturalism Day serves as an opportunity for Canadians to better understand their society, to become more accepting of other cultures and to rejoice and grow through that understanding.

“I am very proud of being Canadian, and in that sense, I think it’s very important that we realize how we need to take care of each other to make this country a way better place,” he said.

“It’s not a bad place, but we can always improve it.”

Organizations: University of Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Canada, Saskatchewan, Chile South America Bolivia Argentina Peru Latin America Saskatoon Regina

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