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The Soundtrack Of Chilean Oppression And A "New Song"

Trinity University

It’s a music and arts event which has ties to something that happened long ago and far away. Chile’s Salvador Allende was overthrown in coup forty years ago. The Allende period, and its aftermath, has been marked with an unusual metric.

"There was a real soundtrack that went along with the rise of the Allende government," said Trinity University’s David Spener. "And its fall due to the military overthrow, and the long dictatorship that followed it. And that soundtrack was known as la nueva canción, the Chilean new song.”

The tumultuous period was captured in song by a series of Bob Dylan-esque protest singers, some of whom paid with their lives. Spener dates his interest in Chile with something he heard from Pete Seeger.

"Pete Seeger read a fragment of a poem by Victor Jara, the Chilean singer that was murdered by the military, and it was a poem that he’d written on a scrap of paper that was smuggled out of the basketball stadium where he was being detained, and where he eventually would die," Spener said.

A series of Chile-centric events are planned to mark the period’s anniversary. History lectures, art, poetry readings and concerts are all slated at Trinity University and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. Spener has this explanation about music as a barometer of the peoples’ will.

"Whenever people are facing adversity, injustice, oppression, music plays an important role in helping people get through it and overcome it," he said.

A look at how they did eventually overcome it as reflected in art is at the heart of Chile Canta Al Mundo.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii