Music and dance

Traditional forms

As far as
traditional dance
goes, at the very heart of Chilean music is the
cueca
, a courting dance for couples, both of whom make great play with a handkerchief waved aloft in the right hand. The man's knees are slightly bent and his body arches back; in rural areas, he stamps his spurs together for effect. Guitar and harp are the accompanying instruments, while handclapping and shouts of encouragement add to the atmosphere. The dance has a common origin with the Argentine
zamba
and Peruvian
marinera
via the early 19th-century
zamacueca
, in turn descended from the Spanish
fandango
. The most traditional form of song is the
tonada
, with its variants the
glosa
,
parabienes
,
romance
,
villancico
(Christmas carol) and
esquinazo
(serenade), in common with the
custon
in Argentina, this may be heard in the form of a
contrapunto
or
controversia
, a musical duel. Among the most celebrated groups are
Los Huasos Quincheros
, Silvia Infante with
Los Condores
and the
Conjunto Millaray
, all of which are popular at rural dances, with their poignant combination of formal singing and rousing accordian music. Famous folk singers in this genre are the
Parra family
from Chillán ,
Hector Pávez
and
Margot Loyola
.

In the north of the country the music is Amerindian and closely related to that of Bolivia. Groups called 'Bailes' dance the
huayño
,
taquirari
,
cachimbo
or
rueda
at carnival and other festivities as well as pre-Columbian rites like the
cauzulor
and
talatur
. Instruments are largely wind and percussion, including
zampoñas
(pan pipes),
lichiguayos
,
pututos
(conch shells),
queñas
(flutes) and
clarines
. There are some notable religious festivals that attract large crowds of pilgrims and include numerous groups of costumed dancers. The most outstanding of these festivals are those of the
Virgen de La Tirana
near Iquique , the
Virgen de la Candelaria
of Copiapó and the
Virgen de Andacollo
.

In the south the Mapuche nation have their own songs, dance-songs and magic and collective dances, accompanied by wind instruments like the great long
trutruca
horn, the shorter
pifilka
and the
kultrún
drum. Further south still, Chiloé has its own unique musical expression: wakes and other religious social occasions include collective singing, while the recreational dances, all of Spanish origin - such as the
vals
,
pavo
,
pericona
and
nave
- have a heavier and less syncopated beat than in central Chile. Accompanying instruments here are the
rabel
(fiddle), guitar and accordion.

Nueva canción

The most famous Chilean movement on the international stage was that of the
nueva canción
, or new song, which arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s under such luminaries as
Violeta Parra
and
Victor Jara
. This movement, which scorned commercialism and sought to give a political meaning
to its songs - whether overt or suggested - gave a whole new dimension to the Chilean musical scene, and was part of a wider movement across the continent, involving people such as Mercedes Sosa in Argentina and Sílvio Rodríguez in Cuba.

Beginning as an underground movement, faraway from the usual round of publicity and radio stations, the
Nueva Canción
protagonists rose to prominence during the 1970 election campaign, which resulted in the victory of Salvador Allende. Although related to folk rhythms, the movement sought to be dynamic and not confined to any particular style. Violeta Parra's suicide and the subsequent coup of 1973 forced its protagonists into exile - Inti Illimanni to Italy, Illapu to France. But Victor Jara was imprisoned in the National Stadium after the coup and was hauled to his death, singing Violeta Parra's famous song, 'Gracias a la vida' (I give thanks to life). Now back in Chile, the ageing Intis and other nueva canción folk groups of the early 1970s still play regular concerts throughout the country.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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