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3 Decolonial Sounds Redolent Echoes of Nueva Canción Time and again the yearning for time has been figured in the topic of music, the art of time. Marshall Brown, The Tooth that Nibbles at the Soul 128 The poetic figures of Nicanor Parra and Mario Benedetti appear as two connecting threads between the type of poetic production discussed in the previous chapter and a specific type of popular music that appeared during the same period. In the case of Nicanor, his indirect contribution to the development of nueva canción has to do with encouraging his sister, Violeta, to conduct research in remote areas of Chile as a way for her to compile folk music and traditions that were rapidly disappearing and had been long neglected. These experiences had a significant impact in shaping Violeta Parra’s own musical style, lyric compositions, and her incursions into visual and textile arts. Needless to say, Violeta Parra has long been hailed as the founding figure of what would later be termed nueva canción beyond the confines of Chile. In his role as cultural critic, Mario Benedetti makes a critical distinction between the two types of “popular” music. On the one hand, there are popular songs that are merely a product for consumption and enjoyment and easily fit into the category of commercial music. By extension, this type of music produces high sales and acquires its status as popular through high-grossing concerts, large record sales, radio play, and other forms of media exposure. The second type of popular music, instead, x Decolonial Sounds: Redolent Echoes of Nueva Canción · 93 shies away from engaging in such mechanisms of commercialization (Benedetti, “La canción como instrumento” 32–34). This type of popular music aims to appeal to a sector of the population that may very well also consume the commercialized type of popular music, though may not quite identify with the escapist or Manichean lyrical constructions of 1960s and 1970s songs in Latin America that often dealt with the topic of love, but failed to engage with social realities. I am thinking here of immensely popular artists such as Angélica María, Enrique Guzmán, or Armando Manzanero. Benedetti also warns against the well-intentioned and overtly political songs that give primacy to ideological content over the craft of lyrical and musical composition. Instead, Benedetti suggests that music must operate within its own set of laws and norms, which simultaneously constitute it as music and art. In other words, music with political content must first stay true to its art and not to politics. When an artist uses overtly political lyrics set to music, Benedetti argues that there is an impending danger of turning art into a mere ideological pamphlet or propaganda presented under the guise of art (Benedetti, “La canción” 33). Benedetti continues his argument by asserting that with popular-political songs, artistic value and merit need to take precedence over ideological indoctrination. With nueva canción, the division between popular songs as art form and lyrics with political content is collapsed. The separation between popular music and lyrics as poetry is blurred in the service of fusing elements from folklore with popular musical styles (i.e., tastes emerging from peasant and working-class sensibilities), as was the case with many of the song styles and lyrics Violeta Parra produced, as well as many of the songs sung by Mercedes Sosa, Víctor Jara, and Silvio Rodríguez. At the same time, the fusion of folklore and popular musical traditions articulated an attempt to bring these musical traditions up-to-date to meet the demands of social and political realities and changing tastes. Put differently , nueva canción artists retrieved folk traditions and popular musical styles from the stagnation of form and repetition in performance over successive generations, while exhibiting and maintaining a respect and understanding of the implications that popular arts have for peasants and other sectors of populations across Latin America. One could go as far as to argue that, in part, nueva canción appears as a response to the musical trends coming from the United States and 94 · Sensing Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin American Arts England as part of a globalized form of counterculture. These forms of musical importation as a neocolonial strategy were seen as a way to mold musical sensibilities, taste, and markets. In the context of the 1960s, nueva canción artists created music as an alternative to British and U...


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