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Home/Stories and articles/Recovery
November 2003

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


The label of DICAP
If the peñas were the natural space for live music, the DICAP label (Discoteca del Cantar Popular) was the name to hold its registers. It was founded in 1968 —originally under the name "Jota Jota"— as an alternative way for musicians to record what their labels considered to bee too political work. Its first publication was Quilapayún's "X Vietnam" (1968), a homage to the 9th World Festival of Democratic Youth in Bulgaria.

Since it was not a traditional label, DICAP worked in a very peculiar way. There were not profit ends, but the earnings would go to the directory of the Communist Party, which at the same time financed and chose whatever was recorded. That explains the orthodox similarity in the message included in these LPs, and the almost complete absence of musical elements that were out of the folk or protest song tradition (a rare exception would be the record "Blops" —1970— by Los Blops).

Nevertheless, that rigid structure had its advantages. Most of the art for these records was the work of brothers Vicente and Antonio Larrea, a designer and photographer that conceived albums as a whole audiovisual concept. Their designs would be the result of direct conversations with the musicians. Woodstock's official poster inspired the label's logo (a yellow bird standing on guitar strings). Their style stayed away from polished images, and chose instead photographs that were "burnt" and plain colors, the same as the ones in a serigraphy and very much connected with the Latin-American art tradition then being worked by people such as Ecuador's Oswaldo Guayasamín. The work of the Larrea brothers can be seen in a high-luxury edition of the book "Rostros y rastros de un canto", published in 1997 and with texts written by the poet Jorge Montealegre.

Up until the State Coup of September 11th, 1973, DICAP got to release more than 60 albums, controlling about 30 per cent of the whole music market. Days after the coup, their offices at Sazie St. Were violently occupied and most of their master tapes taken and, later, destroyed. Until 1982, the label kept on working in Paris and then Madrid. Little of those new recordings could trespass the military censorship and get to Chile. The founding, in 1976, of the Alerce label made possible to continue with the independence spirit and cultural concerned initially conceived by DICAP, and which would be of great importance for the Canto Nuevo movement during the 80s, and even rock and hip-hop offers of the 90s.

The beginning of the end
The raise of Allende's Unidad Popular meant a great impulse for the movement's promotion —magazines such as "Ramona" were then created—, but accommodated it in schemes that were not always creative. DJ Ricardo García said in 1971 that "there must be a serious self-criticism. We must admit that not all that is being made has quality. That not everything should be lauded just for being committed to the ongoing process".

In other words, the Nueva Canción was slowly becoming an instrument for one fixed message. One has to remember that its records, tours and festivals were then State-sponsored. Nevertheless, it still had more depth than what the radio was then offering from Los Angeles Negros or José Alfredo Fuentes.

What would have naturally happened with the movement can never be known. The State coup meant a violent interruption of not just musical, but any artistic work. The most incomprehensible losses where the humans. Five days after the bombing of the Government house (La Moneda), the lifeless body of Victor Jara was recognized by his widow in a Santiago morgue. The singer had been made prisoner and carried with other thousands to the Estadio Chile, where he was murdered by still unknown hands.

At the same time, Angel Parra was part of the thousands of prisoners at the National Stadium, another torture center. He was then carried to Chacabuco, and then to exile in Mexico and Paris. Quilapayún and Inti-Illimani were on tour through Europe at the time, and could not return home until the 80s. Isabel Parra, Patricio Manns and "Payo" Grondona were other famous musicians that became Chilean exiles.

Under these painful circumstances, the main Nueva Canción names kept on working from abroad. Their sentiment was no longer that of justice, but nostalgia for their land. Some could enrich their influences with the new cultures they were learning from; others could not bear the pain and stopped work altogether. From 1973 on, then, these musicians must be followed on their own rather than collectively, even with all the tours and festivals that kept them busy. From Europe, some could wrote valuable exile hymns, such as "Vuelvo" (Horacio Salinas and Patricio Manns) and Isabel Parra's "Ni toda la tierra entera".

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