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Alí Rafael Primera Rosell (31 October 1942 – 16 February 1985) was a musician, composer, poet, and Venezuelan political activist. He was born in Coro, Falcón State, Venezuela and died in Caracas on 16 February 1985. He was one of the best known representatives of Nueva canción ("new song") in Venezuela – his songs "condemning exploitation and repression, and celebrating resistance, struck a chord among a wide public," and he is known in Venezuela as El Cantor del Pueblo (The People's Singer). In 2005 the Venezuelan government declared his music to be national heritage.
Alí Primera was baptized as Rafael Sebastián Primera Rosell by his parents Antonio Primera and Carmen Adela Rossell; he was known as Alí because his grandparents were Arabs. Poor from the start, he lost his father when he was three. His father, who served as an official in Coro, died accidentally during a shooting incident that occurred when some prisoners tried to escape from the jail in town in 1945. As Primera was still quite young when his father died, he travelled with his mother and 2 siblings through different towns on the Paraguaná Peninsula, including San José, Caja de Agua, where he graduated from elementary school; Las Piedras and finally, La Vela de Coro, near Punto Fijo. It was in this town that Primera worked a number of jobs, from a shoeshiner at the age of 6 to a boxer, due to the miserable conditions his family lived in. These jobs did not, however, discourage him from continuing his studies.
In 1960, Primera and his family left La Vela looking for a better life and moved to Caracas, where he enrolled in the "Liceo Caracas" in order to complete his education. After he graduated in 1964, he enrolled at the Central University of Venezuela to study Chemistry at the Faculty of Science. While at the university, he started singing and composing music. At first, it was a just a hobby for him, but it gradually came to take up all of his time. His first songs, Humanidad and No basta rezar, the latter of which was presented at the Festival of Protest Songs organized by the Universidad de los Andes in 1967, propelled him to fame.
The People's Singer
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Between 1969 and 1973, Primera lived in Europe thanks to a scholarship he received in 1968 from the Communist Party of Venezuela to continue his studies in Romania. Once in Europe, he earned a living by washing dishes and occasionally sang in places that respected his work. He recorded his first album Gente de mi tierra in a studio in Germany. Primera's compositions talk about the suffering of the people, destroyed by poverty and social inequality. Because of his songs, he quickly made his way into the hearts of the people and soon became known as El Cantor del Pueblo or The People's Singer.
Primera's work at the time of his death
Primera died in a car accident on 16 February 1985 on the Autopista Valle-Coche in Caracas. Before his death, Alí Primera had started a new album at the end of 1984 that combined the recurring themes of his songs with beats that he had never used before such as the gaita from Zulia State in Venezuela.
|Year of publication||Title||Published by|
|1969||Gente De Mi Tierra||Independent|
|1972||De Una Vez (Canciones del Tercer Mundo – Para Un Solo Mundo)||Verlag Plane (Germany)|
|1973||Lo Primero de Alí Primera||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1974||Alí Primera, Volumen 2||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1975||Adiós en dolor Mayor||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1976||Canción Para Los Valientes||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1977||La Patria Es El Hombre||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1978||Canción Mansa Para Un Pueblo Bravo||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1979||Cuando Nombro La Poesía||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1980||Abrebrecha||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1981||Al Pueblo Lo Que Es De César||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1982||Con El Sol A Medio Cielo||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1984||Entre La Rabia Y La Ternura||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
|1985||Por Si No Lo Sabía||Cigarrón – Sonográfica (Venezuela)|
|1986||Alí ¡En Vivo! (posthumous)||Cigarrón – Promus (Venezuela)|
- Mark Dinneen (2001), Culture and customs of Venezuela, Greenwood
- Luismi Uharte Pozas (2008), El sur en revolución: una mirada a la Venezuela bolivariana, Editores Independientes
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