Nano Stern’s path as an artist follows richly crafted song lines laid by his family and Chilean musical ancestry, and unites those with a sound utterly fresh and relevant. Nano has found something within that has positioned him as the voice of a generation. The grandson of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution, Nano’s childhood was painted vivid not only by his own family’s activism and musicianship, but also by the powerful legacy of the Nueva Canción movement lead by Chilean musical activists during Pinochet’s dictatorship a generation before. Legends like Inti-Illimani and Victor Jara - who suffered exile and even death during these troubling times - continue to inspire Nano’s breadth of sound and emotion. “I am extremely respectful of the tradition,” explains Stern, “It is an enormous gift we received from the people of the past.”
In ‘Festejo de Color’ (‘Festival of Color’), off of his newly released Mil 500 Vueltas, internationally recognized poet and folk virtuoso Nano Stern sheds a shimmering light on the beautiful mixing of cultures that results from migration. Nano originally wrote ‘Festejo de Color’ as an homage to his grandparents who were forced to flee from Eastern Europe during WWII. However, Nano explains that this song quickly developed into a profound recognition of all migrants, the pains they endure and the celebration of their arrival into a new home. Through ‘Festejo de Color’, Nano suppresses xenophobia and celebrates the mixing of cultures, races and ethnicities. Nano describes that, ‘Festejo’, although directly translated as ‘Festival’, is also the Afro-Peruvian dance and rhythm that ‘Festejo de Color’ is based on. Stern also introduces and combines rhythms from the Balkans and Eastern Europe with Festejo.
Susana Baca, a Peruvian Festejo legend guest sings with Nano on this track along with Argentine icon Pedro Aznar and Colombian talent Marta Gomez. With these three guest stars representing the three most emigrated-from countries to Chile, Stern’s ‘Festejo de Color’ is nothing less than a living example of how voices can meld multiple nations into one. Stern wrote ‘Festejo de Color’ in Decima, an improvised form of poetry originally developed in Spain and Portugal, dating back to the 1600’s. Although the beloved Chilean singer/songwriter Violeta Parra famously helped reintroduce Decima in the 20th century, currently Nano is one of the only singer/songwriters to ambitiously conquer this ancient art and makes a strong cultural statement in doing so.
When only fifteen, Nano joined popular Chilean underground band, Mattoral, and thus was initiated into the fresh new sounds and socio-political pulse of the South American rock/punk scene. The thick rock-energy of Mattoral, his classical and jazz training, and the powerful influence of traditional, Chilean revolutionary music make for something purely Nano. What has emerged is a powerhouse artist, brilliantly layering indigenous, African, and European elements into a sound all his own. Folk legend Joan Baez remarked, “[Nano] may be the best young Chilean songwriter of his generation. With his lyrics, melodies, message, delivery, humor and heart, he gets my vote.” Agile across a range of instruments, Nano’s closest companions remain simply his guitar and staggering vocals, and with them come fluent, extraordinary musicianship and a wide-open heart.