Major international bands will descend on Santiago over the first weekend in April as part of Lollapalooza’s first ever international festival, but that’s only part of the story. Kanye West, The Killers, Jane’s Addiction and The Flaming Lips will share the event’s stages with over 50 other artists, among them some of the best and brightest in Chile’s own homegrown music industry. In preparation for April’s festivities, This is Chile has assembled a who’s who of some of the better known Chilean bands stepping up for Santiago’s biggest musical event.
Born in France to a psychologist and a politician in exile under the Pinochet regime, Tijoux grew up in Paris exposed to a broad variety of music, from the rap of the immigrant-dominated suburbs of her childhood, to bands tapping into her Chilean roots. Tijoux heard classic Chilean bands like Inti-Illimani and Los Jaivas as well as the street rappers of the Parisian suburbs, and French hip-hop artists like IAM and NTM.
She returned to Chile in 1992 and by 1997 had joined with other artists to form the band Makiza, which in 1998 and 1999 released two of Chile’s first independent hip-hip records. In 2007 Tijoux made her first widely released solo album, Kaos, followed two years later by 1977, which debuted in the United States in 2010 and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban album.
This electro-pop songstress sang a recent gig at the Teatro Municipal in Valparaíso opening for The Whitest Boy Alive, a major international act out of Norway and Germany, a testament to her rising status on the global stage.
After years of collaborations in the first half of the 2000s, Mena recorded her first album, Esquemas Juveniles, from 2004 to 2005 and released it in 2007. Since then, Mena has toured Latin America and developed a major fan base throughout the region, and particularly in Argentina. Coming to prominence at the same time as a crop of important Chilean singer-songwriters like Fernando Milagros and Gepe, Mena combines the same sensitivity to lyrics and melody with a distinctly popular aesthetic to make intelligent and exciting electronic pop for an international audience.
The guitar has long been the instrument of choice for Chilean songwriters—except, that is, for Francisca Valenzuela. Taking her cues from powerhouse North American female singer-songwriters like Tori Amos and particularly Fiona Apple, Valenzuela has gained notoriety with several radio singles (particularly “Peces” and “Dulce”), and her debut album, Muerdete la Lengua, which was released in 2007.
Born and raised by Chilean parents in San Francisco, California, Valenzuela grew up with classical training, cutting her teeth on the works of Bach, Schubert and Chopin. By the time she had released her first album, Valenzuela had already published a volume of English poems, titled Defenseless Waters. Valenzuela returned with her family to Chile in 2003 at age 12 and has lived there ever since, contributing a unique voice and style to the generation of young singer-songwriters currently transforming the Chilean independent music scene into one of Latin America’s most vibrant.
One of the most venerable Chilean musicians included in the lineup for Lollapalooza, Vasconcellos has been recording solo work since the early 1980s when he split from well-known Chilean progressive rock band Congreso. Born in Italy, Vasconcellos moved with his family to Chile in 1979 at age 20. He performed and recorded with Congreso until 1984 when he moved to Brazil, working as a percussionist and honing his ear for the Brazilian rhythms that would become a hallmark of his solo sound.
In 1991, Vasconcellos returned to Chile and began to develop his solo career full time, releasing his breakthrough record, Verde Cerca, in 1992. Including the smaller solo release that preceded that album, Vasconcellos has released seven studio combining the idiomatic sounds of various Latin American musical traditions.
Coming out of Concepción at the tail end of the 1990s, Los Bunkers look back to legendary bands like The Beatles, The Who and The Kinks for inspiration. Following their first live show in July of 1999, the band moved to Santiago where they immediately began playing concerts in venues around town, eventually releasing their premier album in 2001. They have since released an additional five albums, with the most recent, Música Libre, appearing in 2010. This year, Los Bunkers will also be the first ever from Chile to appear in Southern California’s influential Coachella festival just two weeks after Lollapalooza Chile closes.
It’s virtually impossible to go anywhere in Chile these days without hearing the words “Loca, loca, loca” crooned over the radio. This is just one of the wildly popular songs by Cumbia act Chico Trujillo, the most popular of the crop of Cumbia bands that have contributed to the rise of Nueva Cumbia Chilena, or New Chilean Cumbia, a new lease on life for a traditional Latin dance music originating in Colombia. Chico Trujillo represents an entirely different strain of popular Chilean music than the other musicians appearing in Lollapalooza, but no less essential to the current shape of the country’s contemporary popular culture.
Visit musicapopular.cl for information on other Chilean bands of the moment.