The music of Santiago, Chile

Chilean musicians argue that their feeling of isolation, combined with a higher than average internet penetration helped create and foster a local “scene" of musicians able to make a living from music.

Ana Tijoux in 2011 (Image: Diego Quintana, via Flickr CC).

Santiago, the capital city of Chile and its largest metropole, will be hosting the final of Copa América in a few months, so I haven’t stopped thinking about it. But it is also a very prolific place, music-wise. In 2011, El País, Spain’s biggest newspaper, dubbed the country, “…[t]he new paradise of pop.” Chilean musicians argued there that their feeling of isolation (trapped in a country between the Andes and the Pacific ocean), combined with a higher than average internet penetration (the second highest in Latin America, after Uruguay) helped create and foster a local “scene.” This bred a host of netlabels and a movement of musicians posting their works online, which allowed some artists to be heard abroad and become international sensations.

One of the biggest successes has been Javiera Mena (whom I covered elsewhere). But there are many great bands and artists coming from Chile (and not just from Santiago, but I have to focus), which made me debate for maybe too long about who should be included here.

So maybe I left out some important stuff, maybe I got some things wrong, but after all of the dancing and headbanging, and the thoughtful consideration of melodies and lyrics you will experience in brief, you won’t care much about that. So let’s start.

Ana Tijoux: The other big music success story from Chile is the one of this French-Chilean rapper. She was born and grew up in France because her parents were fleeing from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. But in the early 90’s she moved to Santiago and there sparked a career in hip-hop that, at least for now, has peaked with her 2014 album Vengo (which, as we mentioned, was nominated for a Grammy). Probably the most solid Latin American album from last year, Vengo raps against colonialism, against patriarchy, in favor of the unity of people, and goes around the world to find some of its very fine samplings. Here you have “Somos Sur,” a track that features British Palestinian “First lady of Arabic hip-hop” Shadia Mansour rapping in Arabic.

Gepe: Another success story is Daniel Alejandro Riveros, better known as Gepe, whose 2010 album Audiovisión blew up around the Spanish-speaking world. OK, the Spanish-speaking indie world. But still, impressive. His mix of Chilean folk with pop has proved massively popular. It also helps that his songs come full of heart. Check it out for yourself in the single “Bomba Chaya” from his 2012 album GP.

Dënver: Yet another band that has been able to reach out beyond Chile’s borders is this electropop duo who, yes, were formed in another city, San Felipe, but they have made a career in Santiago. They also found the spotlight in 2010, with their (heavily danceable) album Música, gramática, gimnasia, which, by the way, included an homage to Jurassic Park (in “Lo que quieras”). In 2013 they released Fuera de campo, an album with more orchestration, more detail to melodies and much funkier tunes. That’s where “Revista de gimnasia,” the song below, comes from. Also, they are named after a cartoon dinosaur. Cool.

Javier Barría: Barría made a name for himself putting his music on MySpace and contacting other musicians around Latin America through the internet. Thus, he has been able to tour a few countries outside of Chile. He eventually moved to Facebook, YouTube and BandCamp, but his music continued to be well-crafted storytelling accompanied by beautiful loops and guitar sounds. Here you can find all of his discography, for free, online. And below, you can listen to “Geometría,” one of his songs that has stuck with me.

TunacolaAre you like me and are you suffering from the Northern hemisphere winter? Well, it’s summer down south, and the electropop group Tunacola might have the tune of the season with “Danky” (from their second album Todos los veranos del mundo), an homage to the absurd name of an ice cream sold in Chile. By the way, had you ever been so jealous of a music video?

That’s it for now. But also check out Ases Falsos, Fother Muckers, Astro, Nano Stern, Camila Moreno, R.E.S and Los Búnkers.

Also, see the rest of Teca here.


Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.