Many countries are known for a unique style or genre of music, Chilean music speaks to the diversity and richness of its culture as social and regional subjects influenced its past and present sound.
The national dance of Chile is the “Cueca,” which is purported to be rooted in Spanish, African, Peruvian and indigenous Chilean origins. The cueca relates the story of a man and woman – the movement and music of the dance is as haphazard and elusive as their courtship, with the woman being coy with her white handkerchief and the man being as ready as a rooster for the chase.
There are variations within northern (La Cueca Nortina), central Chile and southern Chile (Chilota) to this dance. The music is usually accompanied by the guitar, harp, piano, accordion and tambourine, although the guitar and the audience’s clapping along with the beat suffices.
The song of Chile has traditionally been considered to be the “tonada,” a style that was brought over by the Spaniards. It is a genre of music not accompanied by dance; however, it is very melodic and more structured than the danced cueca. Popular groups, such as Los Huasos Quincheros, Los de Ramon, and Los Huasos de Algarrobal, have performed music in the style of tonada.
Chilean music experienced a rebirth of traditional folk music from the 1950’s to 1970’s, due to the political unrest that shrouded the decades. The movement, known as “nueva canción,” was a form of musical speech and political activism; however, the focus was more on voicing the people’s struggles, rather than affiliating with a particular political organisation.
Some typical traditional instruments of nueva canción are the guitar and charango. Musical groups, such as Los Cuatro Huasos, popularised folk music across the Americas. Songwriter and theater director Victor Jara of the nueva canción movement even went on to reach international prominence.
Other notable figures, like Raúl de Ramón and Violeta Parra, spawned the voice of the unsatisfied generation, ultimately turning music into an outlet that would spark change while reviving tradition.
Parra and her family, who created La Pena de la Parra, a gathering place for the arts and political activism, also traveled throughout Chile at that time to document and collect songs created by rural folk – through music the Parra’s created themselves and with the music of the people, the trials of the rural lifestyle was expressed.
Unfortunately the activist nueva canción scene was driven underground in the 1970’s due to fear of reprisals from Pinochet’s dictatorship, however, the opposition only helped to inspire singers going through similar political tumult in Uruguay, El Salvador, México, Cuba and Nicaragua.
A mindset of activism further rolled into the 1980’s with bands, such as “Los Prisioneros,” through the rock and new wave genre.
Music in Chile Today
The impact of the events of the decade and subsequent music that was created is continuously felt today as Chile still celebrates and plays the hits from the era.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, hip hop gained popularity in Chile, with West Villain being a notable producer. More recently, cumbia has also gained some popularity with Chileans, hitting the urban, pop, cosmic rock and psychedelic rock as well as the electronic scene with various artists, such as Nano Stern Gepe and Nicolas Jaar, The Ganjas and DJ Ricardo Villalobos.
While the folkloric traditional roots may always hold a special place in Chilean hearts, there is much in store for the development and direction of Chilean music.
Marcela De Vivo is a writer for music streaming site Arena.com and music enthusiast who loves traveling the world with her family to discover new cultures, including food and music. She believes that music plays a huge part in any culture, and finds Chilean music to be quite unique. Follow her on Pinterest today!