Sunday, June 9, 2013


Music in Chile has influences from the native Mapuche, other Andean influences, as well as European influences.  The northern part of Chile was once the cultural capital of the ancient Incan civilization. 

Easter Island out in the Pacific is one of the most isolated islands in the world. Its nearest neighbors are hundreds of miles away, and it’s actually considered part of the Polynesian groups of islands. It’s most famous for its choral music, and they have competitions each year. Their music uses accordion music and guitars as well as other indigenous instruments that are closely related to Polynesian traditions.

Among common Chilean styles of traditional music, “the most popular airs” is called the cueca.  There are certain characterizations that define a cueca: always in a major key and is in 6/8 with the accompaniment in 3/4 which would give it a syncopated feel. The last note of the melody line will always end on the third or fifth of the chord, never the octave, which is somewhat different from Western music where the desire is to end on the tonic. But outside of those main things I just mentioned, the rules are pretty lax on the rest of it. A related form is called the tonada is differentiated by a having more of a fluid melodic section in general and is not intended to be danced to.

Although the cueca is found in neighboring countries as well, the corresponding dance is the considered the national dance of Chile. Its origins are linked to both Spanish and African influences. The dance is more or less a love dance – one intended on finding the right partner and is likened to mating “dances” between roosters and hens. While there are regional variations, the dancers wear traditional clothing and never touch, except for a handkerchief that is passed between the couple. I know I’ve written about other dances using handkerchiefs, but I can’t remember offhand which country it was from. I’m sure there are many variations around the world.

The 1960s brought about a sort of new era of Chilean music: popular music. In the beginning, musicians began to push traditional music (especially of the Andean regions) again, creating a new genre called Nueva Canción Chilena. However, the lyrics to many of the songs were pretty much a social statement of the time, criticizing how things were run – many popular poets doubled as lyricists. (Reminds me of the character Pedro Tercero Garcia in House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende that I mentioned in the last post.) In fact, many of these poets and musicians were under much scrutiny and targeted by the Pinochet administration in the 1970s.

Of the recent music, I found a couple albums that I really enjoyed. Since I’m such a huge fan of punk and ska, I found the album No Transar by the band Los Miserables. It was really hard to find them on iTunes, though. I kept coming up with the Spanish version of the movie Les Miserables. But alas, I did find it, and I might buy it. Another album I found is called Los Presidentes by the group La Ley. This album sounds a lot like reggaeton, which I’m also a huge fan of since we have a lowrider truck that we take to car shows (like, next weekend). I thought this might a good addition to my music collection. I also found the album Kaos by Anita Tijoux (or sometimes written as Ana Tijoux), which is a mix of pop, old school house, and old school hip-hop. Although, I think at times, she reminds me of MIA as far as her cadence goes. I also found the album 1977 on iTunes for $5.99 – I bought this album and absolutely love it. I think it’s won some awards and was featured on the show Breaking Bad. Both my husband and I are really into that jazz/hip-hop sound, and this is perfect for chilling out to. So glad that I bought this.

Up next: the food!

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