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Reviewed by:
  • Historia social de la música popular en Chile, 1950–1970 by Juan Pablo González, Oscar Ohlsen, Claudio Rolle
  • Fernando Rios
Juan Pablo González, Oscar Ohlsen, and Claudio Rolle. Historia social de la música popular en Chile, 1950–1970. Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Universidad Católica de Chile, 2009. 799pp. Photos, bibliography, index, CD. ISBN: 978-956-14-1068-8.

With this richly detailed 799-page volume, Juan Pablo González, Oscar Ohlsen, and Claudio Rolle not only make a substantial contribution to the scholarship on popular music in Chile but also complement prior work conducted by faculty of the Universidad Católica de Chile, specifically Historia social de la música popular en Chile, 1890–1950 (Juan Pablo González and Claudio Rolle, 2005) and Música popular chilena, 20 años, 1970–1990 (Juan Pablo González and Álvaro Godoy, 1995). Latin American music researchers and historians thus have at their disposal a near-comprehensive overview of twentieth-century Chilean popular music trends in this impressive Spanish-language series.

The authors of Historia social de la música popular en Chile, 1950–1970, as self-professed académicos-fanáticos of the styles covered in this volume (11), occasionally insert into the text their personal evaluations of the quality of particular compositions and musicians. Overall, this practice does not substantially detract from the book’s historical focus, because the volume relies heavily on primary source materials (newspaper and magazine articles of the era) rather than contemporary assessments of the period’s artistic currents. The main goal of the book is to offer an all-inclusive treatment of the “phenomenon of popular music in Chile” (14), which is why the authors cover a wide variety of topics (e.g., individual chapters on entertainment venues, folklore of the masses, large-scale forms, bolero and balada, youth music) rather than limit their focus to a genre or movement, as researchers who study Chilean popular music of this period usually have done. A common drawback of an exhaustive approach is that depth is sacrificed for breadth, although this is not a significant issue here, because the book’s length enables the authors to devote considerable attention to each major subject. As a result, readers gain an understanding of how particular Chilean musical trends related to many of the other local artistic currents that preceded and/or overlapped with them. [End Page 139]

Nueva canción, for example, is situated in relation to música típica and neofolklore. In Chile, música típica refers to the ideologically conservative, mass-mediated folkloric tradition that emerged in the 1930s and remained a popular style in the 1950s and 1960s, centered on the huaso (cowboy) and china (the huaso’s romantic partner) figures, and whose emblematic genres were the tonada and cueca. How música típica differs from nueva canción has been frequently addressed in the literature on nueva canción. In contrast, the relationship of neofolklore to nueva canción has received less attention, and for this reason I found the discussion of the interaction between the two movements particularly enlightening. Neofolklore arose in the 1960s and initially was termed “the new wave of folklore” by the press (337). Enlarging the repertoire of Chile’s musical folklorists, neofolklore groups cultivated relatively unknown or archaic local genres, especially the sirilla, refalosa (or resbalosa), and cachimbo. Another hallmark of neofolklore is the use of multipart vocal harmonies, which, along with the bombo legüero’s role as the main percussion instrument, were borrowed from the performance practices of internationally renowned Argentine ensembles such as Los Huanca Huá and Los Trovadores del Norte. Chile’s neofolklore artists, despite their generally apolitical or status quo tendencies, were an important early influence on nueva canción musicians, who adopted similar vocal techniques and further expanded the Chilean folkloric–popular music repertoire through the addition of non-Chilean genres in keeping with the movement’s pan–Latin Americanist ideology. Along with nueva canción musicians’ much greater degree of involvement in the era’s political struggles, the movement’s incorporation of Andean instruments and genres associated with Bolivia and Peru was one way...


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