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Music in Chile

Chile’s musical scene is not only historic, but diverse, not just entertaining, but expressive. With traditional indigenous roots, what has developed over the span of Chilean history is a culturally rich musical timeline that is documented by the introduction of uniquely Andean instruments, sounds, movements, and styles. To the musical world, Chile has contributed several trumpets, rattles, drums (including the caja chayera, the makawa, and the kultrun), and flutes (the kena, siku, and tarka). These instruments create a base and background for the expressive movements to come out of Chile, from the folkloric days of the payadores to today’s modern Chilean Rock scene.


Traditional Chilean music is undeniably rooted in religious heritage, as music and dance commanded both aboriginal and Roman Catholic festivals. Mestizo and Creole music, however, also made their way into this rhythmic form of expression. Spanish-derived poetic forms such as romance, the villancico, and the décima combine with guitar accompaniment to create the verso and the tonada, a classic song of Chile. Also essential to Chile’s musical culture is the cueca, a national dance and song style derived from the Peruvian zamacueca and influenced by African, Spanish and Arab-Andalucían traditions as well. The cueca is performed by brass bands or panpipe ensembles and accompanied by guitars or accordions depending on the region. As expected from folkloric music, the cueca narrates daily life and historical events; it pays tribute to popular figures, records misfortunes and glorifies conquests.

La Nueva Canción Chilena

Directly evolved from the cueca is Chile’s most popular movement, and arguably its greatest musical contribution, La Nueva Canción Chilena, or The New Chilean Song. This mid-1960´s revitalization of traditional native and folk music quickly became associated with political activism, reformation and the Popular Unity government. The movement spoke out on social injustices and the necessary reforms, leading to the exile of many musicians. It even brought about torture and death, such as that of singer Victor Jara (killed in 1973). Other artists active in the movement include Violeta Parra, her daughters Isabel and Angel Parra, and the ensembles Inti-llimani and Qualiapaún.

Although the mix of ancient rhythms and contemporary peace-seeking lyrics ultimately was banned by the oppressive Pinochet regime, Nueva Canción music circulated underground throughout the 70s and 80s. What’s more, the children of the persecuted musicians have now come into their own in the music scene and are the face the Armada Chilena, a present-day musical movement presenting contemporary versions of the new song movement. Artists involved in this scene include: DJ Ricardo Villalobos, DJ Luciano, Alejandro Vivanco, Pier Bucci, Cuti Aste, Bitman & Roban, Claude Roubillie and the Electrodomesticos.





Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Chile: Chilean Cinema, Isabel Allende, Art in Chile and Dance, Theater and Comedy in Chile.

By Margaret Rode
A self-professed city girl, sassy staff writer Margaret Rode hails from Chicago where she received Bachelor degrees in English Literature and Spanish...
24 Sep 2008

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