Music of Chile

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Music of Chile: Topics
Nueva Canción Cueca
Payada Cumbia
Sound Chilean rock
Andean music Hip-Hop
New Chilean Cumbia Mapuche music
Festivals Viña del Mar
National anthem "Himno Nacional"
South American music
Argentina - Bolivia - Brazil - Colombia - Ecuador - Paraguay - Peru - Uruguay - Venezuela
Chilean huasos dancing cueca in 2007, in the then Ross Casino of Pichilemu

The music of Chile ranges from folkloric music, popular music and also to classical music. Music of Easter Island have their own musical traditions.[1] Central folk music is the best known.

Northern Chile was the center of culture in ancient Tahuantinsuyu (Inca empire), and was afterwards dominated by the Spanish. In the north of the country, traditional dances are strongly influenced by Quechua and Aymara culture, which covers parts of Peru, the Andean region of Bolivia and northern Chile. The dances are basic piece of popular piety and in activities linked to the ancient Inca religion and now have a semblance of paganism, as in the case of livestock enfleurage. Outside the cueca northerners, dance highlights include the trot and cachimbo.


The cueca (short for zamacueca) has long been considered the "most popular air of Chile";[2] it first appeared in 1824. The cueca is always in a major key and is written in six-eight time with accompaniment in three-four. According to Pedro Humberto Allende, a Chilean composer, "neither the words nor the music obey any fixed rules; various motives are freely intermingled. The number of bars is from twenty-six to thirty, and there is usually an instrumental introduction twelve to one hundred bars in length. The last note of the melody is either the third or the fifth of the scale, never the octave".[3]

The Tonada is another important form of Chilean traditional song, arising from the music brought by Spanish settlers. It is distinguished from the cueca by an intermediate melodic section and a more prominent melody in general; the tonada is also not danced. There have been several groups who took the Tonada as their main form of expression, such as Los Huasos Quincheros, Los Huasos de Algarrobal, Los de Ramon and others. Other less known styles are: the Sirilla, the Sajuriana, Refalosa, Polka.

Between 1950 and 1970, a rebirth appeared in folk music led by groups such as Los de Ramon, Los Cuatro Huasos, and Los Huasos Quincheros among others.[4][5] There also appeared Chilean folk music composers such as Raul de Ramon, Violeta Parra, Luis Aguirre Pinto, among others who raised up folkloric music and have done research in this area and also in Latin American music. Margot Loyola is another well-known Chilean musician and folk singer who has also been a renowned and active researcher of the folklore of her country and, in general, of Latin America. Vicente Bianchi Alarcón is an accomplished Chilean composer, pianist, and director of Los Coros y Orquesta Chileno. In 2004, he was awarded the Premio a lo Chileno. He is also famous for his work with Pablo Neruda.

Chile also has important classic composers such as Alfonso Leng, Pedro Humberto Allende, Domingo Santa Cruz and others.[6] Also great pianists have come from this country such as Claudio Arrau who is considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century,[citation needed] also Rosita Renard and Alfredo Pearl. One of the most important clavecinist of our days Lionel Party was also born in Chile.[7] From this country are also singers such as Ramon Vinay, Cristina Gallardo-Domas, Victoria Vergara and Veronica Villarroel

Traditional folklore[edit]

Between 1931 and 1960 appeared a rebirth of traditional folklore initially promoted by the Group Los Cuatro Huasos that took folk country music and started popularizing and spreading it not only in Chile also in others countries in Latino America and USA.[8]

After them appeared a lot of important folkloric groups such as Los de Ramon, Los Huasos Quincheros, El Duo Rey Silva, Los Cantores de Santa Cruz and others that made very popular folk music in Chile and also in Latin America. Also appeared several important folk composers who investigated, took the roots of folk music and made it well-known such as Raul de Ramon, Violeta Parra, Margot Loyola, Luis Aguirre Pinto, Clara Solovera among others.[9][10] They did not have political motivations, but rather interest in recovering and spreading the traditional folkloric music of Chile.

However, a new Chilean song would appear afterwards which did have political implications.

"La Nueva Canción Chilena" (The New Chilean song)[edit]

In the mid-1960s appeared singers and composers such as Ángel, Isabel and Violeta Parra that began playing in Santiago, popularizing Aymara and Quechua music. The Parras were connected to Gilbert Favre, Swiss-Frenchman who later became a member of the influential Bolivian group Los Jairas.

Arising out of the revitalization in Andean music in the 1960s, nueva canción soon emerged in Argentina and, especially, Chile. Born during a period of political struggle across Latin America, nueva canción became associated with political activism and reformers like Chilean socialist Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity government.

The roots of nueva canción are in artists like Violeta Parra and Argentinian singer Atahualpa Yupanqui, who collected indigenous songs from rural payadores and helped revitalize the music of these travelling poets and singers. Parra also helped spark an interest in French chanson music, as well as in Amerindian instruments like the quena and charango. In the 1960s, Parra met Gilbert Favre and helped inspire him to found Los Jairas, who would go on to become an influential group in the development of Bolivian music.

Nueva canción began its modern evolution in 1962 when musicians like the Argentinian Mercedes Sosa founded a nativist music scene in Buenos Aires. Soon, in 1965, Ángel and Isabel Parra opened the Peña de los Parra, a Santiago nightclub which solidified the sound of nueva canción and found an audience for future luminaries like Patricio Manns and Víctor Jara. Jara emerged as the first major voice of nueva canción and began its tradition of assailing the perceived corruption of government officials. Songs like "Preguntas por Puerto Montt" accused officials of massacring civilians and other atrocities. Jara influenced musicians across Latin America, and beyond.

The new government of Augusto Pinochet threatened nueva canción artists, driving it underground during the 1970s. Cassette tapes of artists like Inti-Illimani and Quilapayún were circulated in a clandestine manner. The groups continued to oppose Pinochet's government from exile, and helped inspire nueva canción singers from Uruguay (Daniel Viglietti), El Salvador (Yolocamba l'ta), Mexico (Amparo Ochoa) and Nicaragua (Carlos and Luís Enrique Mejía Godoy), as well as Cuban nueva trova artists like Pablo Milanés.

The continued influence of nueva canción can be seen in contemporary Chilean artists such as Gepe.

Pop music[edit]

Chilean cumbia[edit]

Since the 1960s, Chile has developed its own kind of cumbia called "cumbia sonora" or just "Traditional chilean cumbia" with long standing orquestras such as Orquesta Huambaly, La Sonora de Tommy Rey, Sonora Palacios, Los Vikings 5, Giolito y su combo and Pachuco y la Cubanacán, being some of the most popular acts in the last 50 years still with mainstream popularity, being part of the Chilean musical culture and identity.

There are also some subgenres developed in the 1980s such as the Andean cumbia, in the 1990s such as cumbia sound, and in the 2000s such as the Cumbia romántica (La Noche and Américo) and the New Chilean Cumbia (Chico Trujillo and Juana Fe).

Rock and Metal[edit]

Some of the most recognized bands in the non-Spanish speaking world are Los Jaivas, Los Prisioneros, Los Tres, and La Ley.Several subgenres have been developed in the country, giving rise to many important bands to the Spanish speaking sphere. Tom Araya from thrash metal Slayer is the most prominent icon of metal outside Chile, again, many bands are important at latinamerican levels.

Hip Hop[edit]

Since the mid to late 1980s hip hop music has been a considerable influence on the music and culture of Chile. However it wasn't until mid-1990's that hip hop had mainstream popularity with successful bands such as Tiro de Gracia, Los Tetas, Makiza, and La Pozze Latina.

Outside Chile[edit]

Hip hop[edit]

Most recently, Chilean Hip Hop producer West Villain has become a recognized producer. He has produced for popular rap artists on the West Coast, East Coast, Desi, and Latin Hip Hop scene.[11]

"La Armada Chilena"[edit]

More recently, the children of exiled Chileans have made their own successful mark in music with acts like internationally acclaimed DJ Ricardo Villalobos, producer and one half of Super Collider (along with Jamie Lidell) Cristian Vogel, Luciano DJ, Alejandro Vivanco, Pier Bucci, Cuti Aste, Bitman & Roban, Claude Roubillie and Electrodomesticos being prominent names.

More recently, acts such as electro-rock outfit Pánico have come to the forefront of Chilean music on the international stage, playing alongside internationally known bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Less Than Jake and Ladytron.

Classical music[edit]

Claudio Arrau, a great pianist of the 20th century

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Memoria: El Folklor de Chile y sus Raices". Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
  2. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (1945). Music of Latin America. Thomas Y. Crowell company. 
  3. ^ La Tonada
  4. ^ "Musica Tradicional Chilena: Los Cuatro Huasos". 2011-12-30. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
  5. ^ "Musica Folklorica en Chile: Los de Ramon". 2011-12-30. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
  6. ^ Historia Musica folklorica de Chile
  7. ^ Biografia Lionel Party
  8. ^ "Historia de Los Cuatro Huasos". 2004-02-24. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
  9. ^ Biografia Raul de Ramon[dead link]
  10. ^ Biografia Folkloristas chilenos
  11. ^ "Ruthless Memories 2 Hosted By @DJHustle Coming March 26, 2012 -". 2011-03-26. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 


  • Fairley, Jan. "An Uncompromising Song". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 362–371. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0