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November 2003

Nueva Canción Chilena — New Chilean Song:
A sign of the times (... from previous page)

 

A bridge to rock
Fusion is the key word to understand the Nueva Canción movement. And not just for how much it owed to Latin-American folk roots, but also for how it set important bases for what would later develop in the rock field. The most evident bridge is the one laid by the band Los Blops, the less orthodox group to ever sign with the DICAP label, under which their first album was released ("Blops", 1970). Despite their British influences, they didn't seem to find a problem in working with people like Patricio Manns ("Patricio Manns", 1971) and Angel Parra, who's in the credits of the song "Del volar de las palomas", of the band's second LP also called "Blops" (1971).

But their most remarkable association was in Victor Jara's "El derecho de vivir en paz" (1971), where two songs ("El derecho de vivir en paz" and "Abre la ventana") featured Jara's voice along an electric guitar, something which at the time created a little stir because of the "imperialistic" meaning it may had. The duo Amerindios also mixed Latin-American and British influences, specifically the English beat. Amerindios was formed by Jazz-musician Mario Salazar and Julio Numhauser, who also had founded Quilapayún. Numhauser would show up in a number of records, including "Congregación viene" (1972) by Congregación, and Panal's "El hombre y el mar".

In this meeting of rock and protest song, one can not forget the work of Payo Grondona, who composed "La muerte de mi hermano", which is considered Chilean rock's first "hit", thanks to its inclusion in the record "Kaleidoscope men" (1967) by Valparaiso's band Los Mac's. The song was re-recorded decades later, in 1993, by a group of eleven musicians from several rock bands (Los Tres, Lucybell, Fulano) and was included in the anthology "Con el corazón aquí".

All these diverse referents, were also reflected in one of its main legacies in terms of format: the "oratorios" and the "cantatas", long opus with a dramatic base in music and lyrics, which incorporated the classical and the popular worlds. We should mention Angel Parra's "Oratorio para el pueblo" -recorded in 1965 with the Santiago's Philharmonic Chorus and the voices of Isabel Parra and Julio Mardones—and Luis Advis' "La cantata popular Santa María de Iquique", which is considered the most important work in this field. It was recorded by Quilapayún in 1970, with the voice of actor Hector Duvauchelle, and made its debut at the Estadio Chile during the "Second Festival of the Nueva Canción Chilena)". This work tributes the killing of thousands of nitrate miners in December 21st, 1907 at Iquique's Santa María School, and marks a milestone in its meeting of the Latin-American tradition and the Advis academic formation, very much like what in the first world was then developed under the label of "progressive rock".

The world of the "peñas"
Besides some exceptions -like the 60,000 copies that Tito Fernandéz' "La casa nueva" got to sell, the best-ever seller by the DICAP label—the Nueva Canción was never part of the mainstream. Its records were rarely in sales charts, and their presence in that time's press was weak and biased.

That's why its musicians had to look for alternative ways of finance and distribution. Maybe the most important role was played by the "peñas", nightclubs where one would go to listen to live music, eat "empanadas" and drink red wine, with no concern for any sophisticated elements. The "Peña de los Parra" was, by far, the most important of all: there was no name of the Nueva Canción that didn't get to act at the house of Carmen 340, which also held workshops for painting and handcraft, got to have its own record label and still works as a cultural center.

"La Peña de los Parra" was inaugurated in 1965 by Angel and Isabel Parra, (the son and daughter of Violeta) and had the intention of reproducing the bohemia that the two siblings had discovered in Europe while working with their mother. Some of the names familiar to the place where Patricio Manns, Rolando Alarcón and Víctor Jara. Later, one could find Payo Grondona, Tito Fernández, Osvaldo "Gitano" Rodríguez, Homero Caro and Quilapayún.





     
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