A forthcoming book by Geoff Baker, lecturer at at Royal Holloway, University of London, is puffed in the Guardian today on claims that it unpicks the Venezuelan music system that has been adulated and adopted the world over.
The book, El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth (Oxford University Press), describes el sistema in its Venezuelan heartland as a tyrannical cult with regressive teaching methods and disturbing accounts of sexual and other abuses. He also claims it ignores the poor.
None of this is substantiated in Dr Baker’s article in the Guardian, which offers nothing more than general assertions.
Rumours of isolated abuses have flourished for a while, and there is no ignoring the personality cult that has grown around the system’s founder, José Antonio Abreu, and his stellar protégé, Gustavo Dudamel.
Nor can one cover up their intimate connections to a loathsome regime that fosters civil terror and lawlessness in Venezuela while cultivating intimate relations with Iran, Russia and other totalitarian states.
My own limited contacts with El Sistema graduates have yielded few suspicions of dissent or dissatisfaction on their part. I await the book to see what evidence Dr Baker has gathered on the ground.