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Guerrillas use pop music

It was an ambitious plan: create a hit record so irresistible that it would bring in legions of new fans. Minions set to work scouting international talent and putting together slickly packaged tunes and lyrics, complete with glamorous publicity shots, reports Rory Carroll.

world Updated: Feb 26, 2010 01:06 IST
Rory Carroll

It was an ambitious plan: create a hit record so irresistible that it would bring in legions of new fans. Minions set to work scouting international talent and putting together slickly packaged tunes and lyrics, complete with glamorous publicity shots.

The result: Guerrilla Dance, a would-be breakthrough album for Manuel Marulanda, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a group better known for bombing and kidnapping than topping the charts.

Intercepted emails from Colombia’s Marxist rebels recently revealed that its grizzled founder came up with the idea in 2000. After four decades in the jungle waging Latin America’s bloodiest insurgency, Marulanda wanted to broaden the Farc’s appeal and win new recruits.

Colombia’s El Tiempo says the Farc spent almost $1,50,000 commissioning musicians from the Dominican Republic and polishing their tracks before uploading them on YouTube last year.

The lyrics blend battlefield ideology — Taca taca taca, the government will fall, carry the grenades and the rifles, enemy to the left, enemy to the right — with more traditional merengue injunctions to move those hips.

Guerrilla Dance did not storm the charts but attracted attention as a slick contrast to previous rebel offerings of turgid, patchily recorded ballads. But only now do we learn it came from the very top.

Marulanda, who had a $5m US bounty on his head, died of a heart attack in 2008. His forces, weakened, hunted and scattered, are left to ponder the lyric: With this song we will get to Bogota.