Santiago Penando Estas

Violeta Parra Santiago Penando Estas LP (Albatros, 1973)

The last ten years have seen a growing appreciation of Tropicalia, Brazil's late Sixites contribution to rebel music. Yet in the rush to embrace fantastic artists such as Tom Ze, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, and Caetano Veloso, one not so small piece of information hardly gets mentioned: Tropicalia was but one of many musical eruptions happening in South America at the time. Combining South American folk music, radical politics, Cuban son, Musica negra (music made by African slaves in Latin America), and a little bit of rock & roll, La Nueva Cancion (New Song Movement) served as an umbrella for radical musicians from primarily South America, but also Central America and the Caribbean. From Argentina there was Mercedes Sosa; from Uruguay, Alfredo Zitarrossa; from Venezuela there was Ali Primera; from Cuba, the great Silvio Rodriguez; while Brazil contributed Veloso, as well as Chico Buraque. Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru all birthed musicians loyal to La Nueva Cancion, many of who wound up in exile, prison, or killed by their countries government. Of all South American countries, Chile was the one where La Nueva Cancion was the most popular.

Of the Chilean musicians associated with Neuva Cancion, the most well known is Victor Jara. Jara's put his beautiful folk songs in the service of politics, singing about working people and popular struggle. His work for Salvador Allende's Unidad Popular movement, which lead to the socialist's election to President of Chile, marked Jara. When Pinochet, the Chilean military, and the CIA overthrew Allende, Jara was soon imprisoned tortured and executed. While Jara's songs are certainly remarkable, the drama of his life overshadows others just as, if not more important in Chile's Nueva Cancion. One of those people is Violeta Parra.

Born in the 1910s, Violeta Parra grew up among artists, musicians, and poets - mainly her bothers and sisters. At age 7, she was singing and playing guitar. At 17, Violeta was touring the country with her brother Santiago, singing popular songs. The 1950s saw Parra traveling the country, documenting Chili's folklore. She collected art, stories, myths, poems, and songs. Her immersion in Chile's folk culture left a deep impression on her and she was to use this knowledge as the basis for her art. In 1954, playing music, as well as doing sculpture, tapestry and paintings, she won an award for folk singer of the year and was asked to represent Chile at the International Youth Festival in Poland. After the fest, she toured the Soviet Union and wound up in Paris, where she stayed for a couple years and cut her first record.

When she returned to Chile, Parra was considered an important folklorist and was the most popular of all Chilean musicians. One would think that these accomplishments would make he landing in Chile easy. Not so. Her time in Paris had radicalized her. She now had no need for stuffy academics, whom she clashed with over the Museum of Popular Art, an idea of hers, corrupted by academia. Her music was turned toward the people. The music had such a profound effect on Chileans, particularly other musicians,
that Neuva Cancion was born. By 1964, she had tired of Chile and moved back to Paris, where she was honored with a show of her visual art at the Louvre. A year later she was back in Chile, where she started a pena in a tent in Santiago.

La pena is a coffee house of sorts that serves as both a cultural and political center. It was Parra idea to revive the pena in order to form the basis for revolution. However, few around her saw what she did. Despite her popularity, the pena was often empty. While intellectuals sometimes dropped by, no action resulted from their visits. Violeta fell into a deep depression and tried to kill herself. Her friends came to her aid and arranged a tour for her. Playing to crowds in Chile lifted Parra's spirits. Upon her return to Santiago, her friends describe Parra as vibrant and full of energy. Maybe so, but within months, Violeta put a shotgun to her head and killed herself.

Though Violeta Parra's pena was not as influential as she liked, her music did created the basis for Neuva Cancion, which in turn helped revolutionize Latin American politics and lead to the election of Chile's only socialist head of state. And not only that, the songs she left are damn good.

CRUD CRUD, a longtime favorite blog of mine, is nominated for the MP3 Music Blog of the Year Award at Mega Super Mammoth (at Gravy Bread). The cash prize is a modest $50 and I hope to announce the winner this month. Just thought you should know from the source.
-Evan G
Thank you. All money received will be spent on records...quickly, and without hessitancy. Contact me at ss @ s-srecords.com if you will --SS
Congrats on making the finals.
Also this for another great post--not enough people (in the US at least) know about the Neuva Cancion.
The good news is there's a lot of this music on the Web including an entire blog devoted to Violeta Parra: http://discosvioleta.blogspot.com/
As well as a few others that prominently feature the work of her and other Chilean folk artists from that era like: http://sellodicap.blogspot.com/ &
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