Nueva canción (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈnweβa kanˈθjon]
(standard European) or [ˈnweβa kanˈsjon] (American) 'new song') is
a social movement and musical genre in
Iberian America and the Iberian
peninsula, characterized by folk-inspired styles and socially
Nueva canción is widely recognized to have played a
profound role in the social upheavals in Portugal, Spain and Latin
America during the 1970s and 1980s.
Nueva canción first surfaced during the 1960s as "nueva canción
chilena" in Chile. The musical style emerged shortly afterwards in
Spain and other areas of Latin America where it came to be known under
Nueva canción renewed traditional Latin American folk
music, and was soon associated with revolutionary movements, the Latin
American New Left, Liberation Theology, hippie and human rights
movements due to political lyrics. It would gain great popularity
throughout Latin America, and left an imprint on several other genres
like Ibero-American rock,
Cumbia and Andean music.
Nueva canción musicians often faced censorship, exile, forceful
disappearances and even torture by the wave of right-wing military
dictatorships that swept across
Iberian America and the Iberian
peninsula in the
Cold War era, e.g. in Francoist Spain, Pinochet's
Chile, Salazar's Portugal and Videla and Galtieri's Argentina.
Due to nueva canción songs' strongly political messages, some of them
have been used in later political campaigns, the Orange Revolution,
which used Violeta Parra's "Gracias a la Vida".
Nueva canción has
become part of the Latin American and Iberian musical canon but is no
longer a mainstream genre, and has given way to other genres,
particularly Rock en español.
3 Regional manifestations
Chile (Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song))
3.1.1 Prominent Chilean musicians
3.2 Argentina (Nuevo Cancionero)
3.2.1 Prominent Argentine musicians
3.3 Cuba (Nueva Trova)
3.3.1 Prominent Cuban musicians
3.4 Spain (Nova Cançó)
3.4.1 Prominent Spanish musicians
3.6 Brazil (
Tropicalismo & música popular brasileira)
3.7 El Salvador
3.9 Mexico (Canto nuevo)
3.14 Canary Islands
3.15 Catalonia, Valencia and Balearic Islands (Nova cançó)
3.16 Colombia (Canción Social)
3.17 Puerto Rico
5 Further reading
"Nueva canción" is a type of music which is committed to social good.
Its musical and lyrical vernacular is rooted in the popular classes
and often uses a popularly understood style of satire to advocate for
sociopolitical change. The movement reacted against the dominance
of American and European music in Latin America at the time by
assuming an anti-imperial stance that was markedly less focused on the
visual spectacle of commercial music and more focused on social and
political messages. It characteristically talks about poverty,
empowerment, imperialism, democracy, human rights, religion, and the
Latin American identity.
Nueva canción draws heavily upon Andean music, música negra, Spanish
Cuban music and other Latin American folklore. One of the most
important sources for nueva canción is Chilean cueca, a guitar based
rural song-form. Most songs feature the guitar, and often the quena,
zampoña, charango or cajón. The lyrics are typically in Spanish,
with some indigenous or local words mixed in and frequently utilize
the poetic forms of copla and décima.
Nueva canción was explicitly related to leftist politics, advancing
leftist ideals and flourishing within the structure of the Communist
Party in Latin America. Cuban cultural organization Casa de las
Américas hosted many notable gatherings of nueva canción musicians,
including the 1967 Encuentro de la Canción Protesta.
Mercedes Sosa from Argentina was among the very early nueva canción
Nueva canción developed in the historical context of the "folklore
boom" that occurred in Latin America in the 1950s. Chilean Violeta
Parra and Argentine
Atahualpa Yupanqui were two transitional figures
as their mastery of folk music and personal involvement in leftist
political organizations aided the eventual union of the two in Nueva
canción. The movement was also aided by legislation like Juan
Perón's Decreto 3371/1949 de Protección de la Musica Nacional and
Law No. 14,226 which required that half of the music played on the
radio or performed live be of national origin.
National manifestations of nueva canción began occurring in the late
1950s. The earliest were in
Chile and Spain, where the movement
Catalan language and culture. The music quickly spread to
Argentina and throughout Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s.
Various national movements used their own terminology, however, the
term "nueva canción" was adopted at the 1967 Encuentro de la Canción
Protesta and has thereafter been used as an all-encompassing term.
Nueva canción is often considered a Pan-Latino phenomenon,
national manifestations were varied and reacted to local political and
Chile (Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song))
Chilean nueva canción has its foundations in Violeta Parra's efforts
to preserve over 3,000 Chilean songs, recipes, traditions, and
proverbs. Parra and her children Isabel and Ángel also founded
cultural centers like La Carpa de la Reina and Peña de los Parra that
provided training and performance opportunities and functioned as
organizing center for leftist political activism. Until political
circumstances forced its closure in 1973, Peña de los Parra welcomed
almost all of the major figures associated with early Nueva Canción,
including Chileans Patricio Manns, Víctor Jara, Rolando Alarcón,
Payo Grondona, Patricio Castillo, Homero Caro, Tito Fernández, and
Kiko Álvarez, as well as non-Chilean musicians, such as César Isella
Atahualpa Yupanqui from Argentina and Paco Ibañéz of Spain.
Chilean nueva canción moved out of small gathering places like Peña
de los Parra in 1968 when the Communist Youth Party of
1000 copies of the album "Por Vietnam" by
Quilapayún to raise funds
for the band's travel to the International Youth Festival in Bulgaria.
The copies sold out unexpectedly, a strong demonstration of the
popular demand for this new music. In response, the Communist Party
created Discoteca de Canto Popular (DICAP), a social record label that
grew in its five years of operation from a 4,000 record operation in
1968 to pressing over 240,000 records in 1973. In 1969 the
Universidad Cátolica in Santiago hosted the Primer Festival de la
Nueva Canción Chilena.
Salvador Allende's 1970 presidential campaign was a major turning
point in the history of Chilean nueva canción. Many artists became
involved in the campaign; songs like "Venceremos" by
Víctor Jara were
widely used in Allende rallies. After Allende's election, nueva
canción artists were utilized as a pro-Allende public relations
machine inside and outside of Chile. By 1971, groups like
Quilapayún were receiving financial support from
the Allende government.
Inti-Illimani "put music to the government
manifesto" in the 1970 album Canto al Programa.
In 1973, the United States/CIA-backed right-wing military coup
overthrew Allende’s democratic government, bombing the presidential
palace. Pinochet's forces then rounded up 5,000 civilians into a
soccer stadium for interrogation, torture, and execution. In the
stadium-turned-prison Victor Jara was beaten, tortured, and his wrists
were broken. After several days he was executed and shot 44 times.
His wife Joan Jara writes, “where his belly ought to have been was a
gory, gaping void.” Because of his popularity and fame in the
music world, Jara is the most well-known victim of a regime that
killed or “disappeared” at least 3,065 people and tortured more
than 38,000, bringing the number of victims to 40,018. Other
musicians, such as
Patricio Manns and groups
Quilapayún, found safety outside the country. Under Augusto Pinochet
nueva canción recordings were seized, burned, and banned from the
airwaves and record stores. The military government exiled and
imprisoned artists and went as far as to ban many traditional Andean
instruments in order to suppress the nueva canción movement. This
period in Chilean history is known as the apagón cultural—the
By late 1975, artists had begun to circumvent these restrictions
through so-called "Andean Baroque" ensembles that performed standards
of the Western classical repertoire on indigenous South American
instruments. These performances took place in the politically neutral
environments of churches, community centers, and the few remaining
peñas. For this reason, and because of the novelty of the concept,
these performances were allowed to continue without government
interference. Performers gradually grew bolder, incorporating some
of old nueva canción repertoire, though carefully avoiding overtly
political topics. Artists began calling this music "canto nuevo", a
term selected to both reference and distance the new movement from the
former nueva canción. Because of the precarious political
circumstances in which it existed, canto nuevo is notable for its use
of highly metaphorical language, allowing songs to evade censors by
disguising political messages beneath layers of symbolism. Live
performances often included spoken introductions or interludes that
provided insight into the song’s real meaning.
As the 1980s arrived, advances in recording technology allowed
supporters to informally exchange cassettes outside of the
governmental control. An economic crisis forced Chilean television
stations to hire cheaper Chilean performers rather than international
stars for broadcast bookings, while a relaxation in government
restrictions allowed canto nuevo performers to participate in several
major popular music festivals. Increasing public recognition of the
movement facilitated the gathering of its participants at events such
Congreso de Artistas y Trabajadores (Conference of Artists and
Workers) in 1983. The canto nuevo repertoire began to diversify,
incorporating cosmopolitan influences such as electronic instruments,
classical harmonies, and jazz influences.
Though the genre is not especially active today, the legacy of figures
Violeta Parra is enormous. Parra's music continues to be recorded
by contemporary artists and her song "Gracias a la Vida" was recorded
by supergroup Artists for
Chile in an effort to raise relief funds in
the wake of the 2010 Chilean earthquake.
Prominent Chilean musicians
Guillermo "Willy" Oddó
Santiago del Nuevo Extremo
Argentina (Nuevo Cancionero)
Atahualpa Yupanqui at the 1979 Festival de Cosquín
In Argentina, the movement was founded under the name Nuevo Cancionero
and formally codified on February 11, 1963 when fourteen artists met
in Mendoza, Argentina to sign the Manifiesto Fundacional de Nuevo
Cancionero. Present were both musical artists and poet writers. The
Argentine movement especially was a musico-literal. Writers like
Armando Tejada Gomez were highly influential and made substantial
contributions to the movement in the form of original poetry. The
Manifesto's introduction places the roots of Nuevo Cancionero in the
rediscovery of folk music and indigenous traditions to the work of
Atahualpa Yupanqui and Buenaventura Luna and the internal
urban migration that brought rural Argentines to the capital of Buenos
Aires. The body of the document outlines the goal of the movement: the
development of a national song that overcome the dominance of
tango-folklore in Argentine national music and the rejection of pure
commercialism. Instead Nuevo Cancionero sought to embrace of
institutions that encouraged critical thinking and the open exchange
Nuevo Cancionero's most famous proponent was Mercedes Sosa. Her
success at the 1965 Cosquin Folklore Festival introduced Nuevo
Cancionero to new levels of public exposure after Argentine folk
Jorge Cafrune singled her out on stage as a budding
talent. In 1967, Sosa completed her first international tour in
the United States and Europe. Other notable Nuevo Cancionero
artists of this time included Tito Francia, Víctor Heredia, and
César Isella, who left the folk music group
Los Fronterizos to pursue
a solo career. In 1969 he set the poetry of Armando Tejada Gomez to
produce "Canción para todos", an anthem later designated by UNESCO
the hymn of Latin America.
Nuevo cancionero artists were among the approximately 30,000 victims
of forced disappearances under Argentina's 1976–1983 military
dictatorship. Additional censorship, intimidation, and persecution
forced many artists into exile where they had more freedom to
publicize and criticize the events unfolding in Latin America. Sosa,
for example, participated in the first Amnesty International concert
in London in 1979, and also performed in Israel, Canada, Colombia, and
Brazil while continuing to record.
After the fall of the dictatorship in 1983, Argentine artists returned
and performed massive comeback concerts that regularly filled sports
areas and public parks with tens of thousands of people.
Influences from time spent in exile abroad were clear through sample
of instruments like the harmonica, drum set, bass guitar, electric
keyboard, brass ensembles, backup singers, string instruments
(especially double bass and violin), and stylistic and harmonic
influences from the soundscapes of classical, jazz, pop, rock, and
punk. Collaborations became increasingly common, especially between
proponents of Nuevo Cancionero and the ideologically similar Rock
Nuevo Cancionero artists became symbols of a triumphant national
Mercedes Sosa died, millions flooded the streets as her
body lay in official state in the National Cathedral, an honor
reserved for only the most prominent of national icons. While the
community of musicians actively composing in the Nuevo Cancionero
tradition is small, recordings and covers of Nuevo Cancionero classics
remain popular in Argentina.
Prominent Argentine musicians
Cuba (Nueva Trova)
Main article: Nueva trova
Of the regional manifestations of nueva canción, nueva trova is
distinct because of its function within and support from the Castro
regime. While nueva canción in other countries primarily functioned
in opposition to existing regimes, nueva trova emerged after the Cuban
Revolution and enjoyed various degrees of state support throughout the
late twentieth century.
Nueva trova has its roots in the traditional
trova, but differs from it because its content is, in the widest
sense, political. It combines traditional folk music idioms with
'progressive' and often politicized lyrics that concentrate on
socialism, injustice, sexism, colonialism, racism and similar
'serious' issues. Occasional examples of non-political styles in
the nueva trova movement can also be found, for example, Liuba María
Hevia, whose lyrics are focused on more traditional subjects such as
love and solitude albeit in a highly poetical style. Later nueva trova
musicians were also influenced by rock and pop of that time.
Silvio Rodríguez and
Pablo Milanés became the most important
exponents of the style.
Carlos Puebla and
Joseíto Fernández were
long-time trova singers who added their weight to the new regime, but
of the two only Puebla wrote special pro-revolution songs.
The Castro administration gave plenty of support to musicians willing
to write and sing anti-U.S. imperialism or pro-revolution songs, an
asset in an era when many traditional musicians were finding it
difficult or impossible to earn a living. In 1967 the Casa de las
Américas in Havana held a Festival de la canción de protesta
(protest songs). Much of the effort was spent applauding anti-U.S.
expressions. Tania Castellanos, a filín singer and author, wrote
"¡Por Ángela!" in support of US political activist Angela Davis.
César Portillo de la Luz wrote "Oh, valeroso Viet Nam".
Institutions like the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC (GES)
while not directly working in nueva trova, provided valuable musical
training to amateur Cuban artists. In 1972, the Cuban government
officially institutionalized the music in the Movimiento de la Nueva
Trova, a membership-based organization that organized and regulated
every facet of nueva trova including access to education and musical
resources, performance venues, and financial benefits.
Nueva trova peaked in the 1970s and was already declining before the
fall of the Soviet Union due to a growing disenchantment with
one-party rule, and externally, from the vivid contrast with the Buena
Vista Social Club film and recordings. Carlos Varela
is famous in Cuba for his open criticism of some aspects of Castro's
Prominent Cuban musicians
Spain (Nova Cançó)
Main article: Nova Cançó
Nova Cançó was an artistic movement of the late 1950s that
promoted Catalan music in Francoist Spain. The movement sought to
normalize use of the
Catalan language after public use of the language
was forbidden when
Catalonia fell in the Spanish Civil War. Artists
Catalan language to assert Catalan identity in popular music
and denounce the injustices of the Franco regime. Musically, it had
roots in the French Nouvelle Chanson.
In 1957, the writer
Josep Maria Espinàs
Josep Maria Espinàs gave lectures on the French
singer-songwriter Georges Brassens, whom he called "the troubadour of
our times." Espinàs had begun to translate some of Brassens' songs
into Catalan. In 1958, two EPs of songs in Catalan were released:
Hermanos Serrano: Cantan en catalán los éxitos internationals ("The
Brothers Serrano Sing International Hits in Catalan") and José
Guardiola: canta en catalán los éxitos internationales. They are now
considered the first recordings of modern music in the Catalan
language. These singers, as well as others such as Font Sellabona and
Rudy Ventura, form a prelude to the Nova Cançó.
At the suggestion of Josep Benet i de Joan and Maurici Serrahima, a
group composed of Jaume Armengol, Lluís Serrahima and Miquel Porter
started composing Catalan songs. In 1959, after an
article by Lluís Serrahima, titled "Ens calen cançons d’ara" ("We
need songs for today"), was published in Germinàbit, more authors and
singers were attracted to the movement. After a very
successful representation at the Centre Comarcal
Lleidatà,[clarification needed] the group
Els Setze Jutges was born,
founded by Remei Margarit and Josep Maria Espinàs.
Delfí Abella and
Francesc Pi de la Serra joined soon thereafter. The
Nova Cançó records appeared in 1962, and many musical bands,
vocal groups, singer-songwriters, and interpreters picked up the
In 1963, a professional Catalan artist, Salomé, and a Valencian,
Raimon, were awarded the first prize of the Fifth Festival of
Mediterranean Music with the song "Se’n va anar" ("[She]
left"). Other important participants in the movement
included Guillem d'Efak and Núria Feliu, who received the Spanish
Critics' Award in 1966, or other new members of Els Setze
Jutges. Some of them were even well known abroad.
Apart from Raimon, other former members of
Els Setze Jutges continued
their careers successfully, including Guillermina Motta, Francesc Pi
de la Serra, Maria del Mar Bonet,
Lluís Llach and, especially, Joan
Manuel Serrat. Other significant figures appeared somewhat later, like
the Valencian Ovidi Montllor.
Prominent Spanish musicians
Luis Eduardo Aute
Entre dos aguas
Tropicalismo & música popular brasileira)
Yolocamba I Tá
Estudiantina de la Universidad de San Carlos
Mexico (Canto nuevo)
Nicaragua nueva canción (
Nueva canción nicaragüense) musicians are
attributed with transmitting social and political messages, and aiding
in the ideological mobilisation of the populace during the Sandinista
Carlos Mejía Godoy
Luis Enríque Mejía Godoy
Golperos de Don Pío
Catalonia, Valencia and Balearic Islands (Nova cançó)
Further information: Nova cançó
Joan Manuel Serrat
Maria del Mar Bonet
Colombia (Canción Social)
Ana y Jaime
Haciendo Punto en Otro Son
Antonio Cabán Vale
^ a b Socially Conscious Music Forming the Social Conscience:
Nicaraguan música testimonial and the Creation of a Revolutionary
Moment. In From Tejano to the Tango: Popular Musics of Latin America,
Walter A. Clark, editor, pp. 41-69. New York: Routledge. 2002. Cite
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^ "La Reforma Agraria" (Agricultural reform), "Duro con él" (I
survive with him), "Ya ganamos la pelea" (At last we won the fight)
and "Son de la alfabetización" were some of Puebla's compositions at
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"Socially conscious music forming the social conscience: Nicaraguan
Musica Testimonial and the creation of a revolutionary moment" by T.M.
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by Walter Aaron Clark.
Music genres in the Hispanosphere
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Spanish music genre)
Xiringüelu (from Asturias)
Latin hip hop
Son de los Diablos
and protest music
New Chilean cumbia
Music of Africa
Bomba del Chota