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Singer-songwriter Polache got his start pointing out the beauty of his home country. But an impromptu duet could lead to his fall.
Polache’s songs cover everything from Honduran migrants dodging U.S. border guards to the national soccer team’s qualification for next year’s World Cup, the first time the squad has reached the tournament in nearly three decades.
As he strums his beat-up acoustic guitar, Polache sometimes sounds like Ruben Blades unplugged. His lyrics connect with listeners because they are full of Honduran slang and vulgarities. For example, the Spanish verb for “angry” is enojado, but Polache uses the far more colorful expression encachimbado.
“He sings the way Hondurans talk and that’s what’s made him very popular,” said Miguel Calix, a political analyst in Tegucigalpa, the capital.
Polache hooked up with the ousted Honduran president by accident. He knew nothing about politics but Zelaya liked Polache’s music and invited the singer to accompany him on a trip to Honduras’ Mosquito Coast.
With the cameras rolling, Polache dedicated a song to the president. Zelaya joined in and the two men began singing in a call-and-response style.
Not everyone liked the results. One listener compared the performance to “two donkeys braying.” And in Honduras’ increasingly polarized political environment, the performance cemented Polache’s public image as a supporter of Zelaya.
Following the coup, some radio stations refused to play Polache’s songs while TV stations and newspapers that once fawned over the musician ignored him. There were even concerns that Polache had been arrested by the de facto government, a rumor he had to shoot down on his website.
“Now that Zelaya is out of power, Polache is finished,” said Gustavo Funez, who owns a Tegucigalpa CD shop.
Unlike many of its Latin American neighbors, Honduras in recent decades has managed to avoid revolution or a major civil war. Partly as a result, there’s no tradition of high-profile politically active singers, like Cuba’s Silvio Rodriguez or the Mejia Godoy brothers of Nicaragua.
Polache admits he’s never voted and he worries that he’ll alienate fans if he gets sucked too far into Honduran politics. Still, watching soldiers remove Zelaya from power in an illegal coup d’etat led to some soul searching.
“Nearly 80 percent of the country lives in poverty while 5 percent are extremely rich and the coup was a way to maintain the status quo,” Polache said. “Now, we’re all obliged to get involved in the politics of this country.”
For starters, Polache is writing a song called “La consulta en el cielo, or “Elections in Heaven.”
“It’s my way of looking at what happened” during the coup, he said. “It’s a way to tell people that whether you are left-wing or right-wing, pro-Zelaya or anti-Zelaya, you will be judged — either in this life or in the afterlife.”