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October 04, 1989 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-10-04

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ARTS
Wednesday, October 4, 1989

The Michigan Daily

Page 7

Ecuador: Fragile
Democracy
by David Corkill and David
Cubitt
Latin America Bureau (1988)
$7.50/paper
Introducing their brief study of
Ecuadoran history and politics, au-
thors David Corkill and David
Cubitt make their bid for under-
statement of the century as they ob-
serve that "Ecuador seldom makes
the headlines in the world's press."
Most U.S. residents, when they
think of South America at all, do so
in connection with Argentina and
Brazil,-Chile and Colombia. Ecuador
hardly merits a blip.
Corkill and Cubitt give it much
more, arguing that Ecuador's very
lack of notoriety is paradoxically
what makes it worth examining.
Like the geographical dividing line
between north and south upon which
it rests and from which it derives its
name, Ecuador, claim the authors,
continually emerges as the "median
case," the country between extremes
where one finds a cross section of
"Latin America as a whole."
'But Corkill and Cubitt fail to
draw the analogies that might forge
useful comparisons between Ecuador
and the countries for which it osten-
sibly serves as an archetype. As they
discuss the country's regional and ra-
cial divisions or its tradition of per-
sonalist and populist politics, they
never demonstrate how these reflect
or help explain similar patterns in
the South American cone. Most of
the time, as they march relentlessly
through five centuries of Ecuadoran
history in slightly over 100 pages,
they have a hard enough time offer-
ing explanations in relation to
Ecuador itself for the patterns they
dutifully track:
The tracking itself is done mas-
terfully. The authors offer a convinc-
ing, sobering portrait of a country
that has never developed ideologi-
cally distinct political parties and
consequently never created a political
culture in which ideas matter more
than individuals - and institutions
matter enough to preserve them. The
military has frequently abrogated
civilian rule, and civilian presidents
such as Velasco Ibarra and Febres
Cordero demonstrated little respect
for the institutions they were pledged
to uphold.
Ecuador's politicians are not the
only ones who place themselves

first; as the authors make clear, its
bourgeoisie has never been very pro-
gressive either. Time and again,
Corkill and Cubitt explain how tra-
ditional landed interests and their al-
lies in the export industry success-
fully squash land reform measures
and import-substitution programs
that might have nurtured home-
grown industry.
Hence the authors' lugubrious
tale of how Ecuador's apparent
elixir, the discovery of oil, led to
foreign domination and proliferating
debt. Both their chapter on "The
Petroleum Generals" - in which
they play with the bitter paradox of a
military more progressive than the
The authors offer a con-
vincing, sobering por-
trait of a country that has
never developed ideo-
logically distinct political
parties and conse-
quently never created a
political culture in which
ideas matter more than
individuals - and insti-
tutions matter enough to
preserve them. The mili-
tary has frequently ab-
rogated civilian rule, and
civilian presidents such
as Velasco lbarra and
Febres Cordero demon-
strated little respect for
the institutions they were
pledged to uphold...
Malnutrition affects 57
percent of the popula-
tion; 80 percent of
Ecuadorans work for less
than the minimum
wage; 90 percent of
Ecuadorans have no
sewage.
capitalists it tries to nurture - as
well as their grim concluding chapter
on "Andean Thatcherism" under
Febres, who traded away what little
control Ecuador still had of its oil
fields, provide adequate case studies
of just what the Ecuadoran -elites'
failure to modernize has cost their
country.

Most of all, though, this failure
has hurt Ecuador's people, and
Corkill and Cubitt are at their best
in their chapter "The Forgotten
Majority," where damning photos of
Ecuadoran slums complement the
authors' equally stark look at what
the statistics behind those photos are
- as well as what they mean for
Ecuador's future. Malnutrition af-
fects 57 percent of the population;
80 percent of Ecuadorans work for
less than the minimum wage; 90
percent of Ecuadorans have no
sewage.
Perhaps the one bright spot in
this otherwise grim picture consists
in the way a historically apolitical
population has become increasingly
organized in an effort to expand what
few rights it has. Corkill and Cubitt
offer detailed portraits - in a book
with all too few of them - of
women organizing for basic services
in the slums of Guayaquil and of
indigenous peoples successfully re-
sisting encroaching oil explorers and
plantation builders in the remote
Pastaza region.
But with these few exceptions,
Ecuador: Fragile Democracy is rel-
atively unsatisfying, and not because
it paints a grim picture. The authors'
fundamental failure is their inability
to offer a geneaology for that failure,
either in Ecuador's own past or by
relation to the bitter annals of Latin
American history as a whole. What
explains the fundamental shortcom-
ings which the book traces so ruth-
lessly? Has the United States - not
surprisingly a pervasive presence
throughout the book - exacerbated
these flaws, and if so, how? Most
importantly, given their reading of
the past, what prognosis can Corkill
and Cubitt offer us for Ecuador's fu-
ture?
With rare exceptions, these ques-
tions are never addressed, let alone
answered. The survey that Corkill
and Cubitt instead offer at least has
the merit of helping its readers for-
mulate such questions, which is no
mean feat for an introduction to a
country few of those readers will
know well. Hence even if Ecuador:
Fragile Democracy ultimately of-
fers only a fragile foundation in
Ecuadoran history, it can serve as a
valuable road map introducing an ex-
tremely complicated and relatively
unknown terrain.
--Mike Fischer

Lacking flamboyance, Gunther Herbig nonetheless ably conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in a
performance of Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony last Sunday.
Galway frolicked with magic flute on SUiday

BY SHERRILL L. BENNETT

I

Some old favorites graced Hill Auditorium last
Sunday at the University Musical Society's season
opening concert. Maestro Gunther Herbig made his
third Ann Arbor appearance, flutist James Galway re-
turned for his seventh, and the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra for their 62nd. Mozart got a working over,
and all the forces of the orchestra joined to create
Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony.
The Overture to the Abduction from the Straglio
opened the concert with a swirling cascade of strings
grasping all the fire and intricacy of Mozart. Herbig
was emphatic, but did not add much imagination to the
performance. That was not the last of Mozart for the
evening. Galway also chose Mozart, the popular Con-
certo in G Major, and milked it with his shimmering
gold instrument. His rich sound and too-cute improvs
were a little embarrassing for the slow movement of
the concerto - it was like adding a layer of chocolate
frosting to double-fudge brownies. But his impeccable
technique and sincere European charm held the audience
captive for the entire performance. An Irish folk tune
served as an enchanting encore by Galway, who first
intoned the gigue-like melody. With a subtle sweep
from Herbig, the strings joined in pizzicato one by one
and then disappeared again until the solo flute was left.
Very effective - it was like being told an old Irish
fairy tale.
Although his Fourth Symphony was completed in
1936, Shostakovich postponed its premiere for 25

years. While he claims that the delay was caused by ex-
tensive artistic revision, some critics alege it may
have been related to the Soviet musical/political cli-
mate of the time which'demanded uncompromising pa-
triotism. Whatever the case, it's hard to imagine that a
work of such physical and emotional magnitude could
be suppressed for so many years - and the:Detroit
Symphony Orchestra won't let you.
The collage of musical identities present in the first
movement was brought to life by the DSO from the
melancholy Russian tunes to the rigid march-like
rhythms. Herbig's interpretation was neither flashy nor
original. His musical instincts, though ladking pas-
sion, were genuine. He's not an upstager or a show-
stopper - he's delightfully average.
The second movement was like built-in comic relief
sandwiched in between two intense dramas. During the
wit and brevity of this movement, the DSO lost some
enthusiasm and consequently some of the momentum
of the piece.
The finale was a rebirth of energy. The brasses
soared violently to the very top of Hill's ceiling,
threatening every crack and crevice in its structure. The
juxtaposition of those high points and the subtle nu-
ances of the chamber-like sections create the drama of
the piece as a whole, a drama that was alive and well in
the heart of the DSO. No recording can quite compare
to the earth-shattering impact captured in a live perfor-
mance of this masterful, but neglected,┬░symphony.

000000000 p

Psst, theater freaks:

Boogie Down Produc-
tions
Ghetto Music: The Blueprint
of Hip Hop
Jive
KRS-One still has a lot to say;
this is quite obvious from the title
alone. Ghetto Music, his third al-
bum, is easily the most intelligent
and radically direct rap record to date
since Public Enemy's Nation of
Millions. The current rap move-
ment, up to par with KRS' own
"Stop the Violence," stresses rap's
shaky position as Black America's
truest and purest source of informa-
tion and social commentary. Rap
music is, at times, the only perspec-
tive that challenges the views of the
media, the news, and the majority.
That alone makes it a valid and rele-
vant source, as well as entertain-
ment. However, amid much "street
knowledge" from rappers N.W.A.
and D.O.C., only a few rappers re-
ally inform, without half-stepping.
I That's where BDP comes in.
"Why is That?" could easily be
the rap single of the year. Tough,
brilliant, radical and provocative, it
challenges the listener to question

information: religious iconography,
forcing white religious figures upon
the Black community; the schools'
choice in teaching American history
to Blacks rather than African-Ameri-
can history. KRS ponders, "It's like
teaching dogs to be a cat/ you don't
teach white kids to be Black/ but ask
yourself homeboy, why is that?"
over churning, dense bass that
pounds through you in triplets while
an ominous piano line vamps un-
derneath and a sampled voice stut-
ters, "The government you have
elected is inoperative."
Musically, the pseudo-reggae that
dominated "The P is Free," "Illegal
Business," and the majority of BDP
records dominates here and even
overshadows the rap side at times.
KRS works with a real band of mu-
sicians and singers on this one, with
mixed results. He gets points for
originality, lots of points. Rap needs
to stop stealing from other genres
before it collapses into total andl ab-
solute creative bankruptcy.
Many hardcore followers didn't
agree with me on "Bo! Bo! Bo!" a
song about racism and police brutal-
ity, with reggae overtones. They
think it's silly, but I tend to dis-

agree. The real percussion and trum-
pet blares are hyped up. KRS de-
scribes with vivid detail of being at-
tacked by the NYPD with violence
and dealing with them in kind. The
"Bo! Bo!" that he's referring to is the
sound of gunfire on the New York
streets. Perhaps the musical diversity
of rap might be moving too quickly
for its audience.
"You Must Learn" is excellent.
The song boasts a catchy calypso
beat, while KRS defines his position
on the urban consciousness. The
samples on this and other jams "The
Blueprint" and "Ghetto Music" are
very funky; they conjure images of
Rudy Ray Moore, Aunt Ester,
Dolomite and Mister Hot Buttered
Soul, Isaac Hayes. In comparison,
cuts "Breath Control," "Gimme
Dat," and "Rap Music" fall by the
wayside. His biggest problem on

these seems to be delivery. The con-
cept is always satisfying, but at
times, such as on "Who Protects Us
From You?" he comes off like fifth-
year/generation Gil-Scott Heron.
The reason for KRS' newfound
funk and musical energy seems to
stem from his insistence on ghetto
music and ghetto consciousness over
commercial aspirations for the pop
charts. In the liner notes, he explains
that because Blacks are responsible
for almost every form of musical in-
novation - from rap to jazz and
through reggae, rock, funk and blues
- only by centering oneself in the
Ghetto consciousness can one help
music take a new direction. Hence
the title Ghetto Music is as ambi-
tious as anything released this year.
Some of it is quite bad, but other
parts are excellent by both commer-
cial and rap standards. Word.
-Forrest Green III

You wanna buy a letter C? Sorry.
But you can write for Daily Arts
and get recognition for your alphabet fetish
Drop by 420 Maynard
this Sunday at 1:30.

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