Following Violeta’s steps: New Female Voices of Chilean Folklore

They are young people and carry Chile’s popular rhythm deep inside. And, as Violeta Parra did, they seek to make it known worldwide.

El Parcito
Imagen: El Parcito - Sitio Oficial

During the 50’s, Violeta Parra showed countryside songs to Santiago and the world. Today, more than a century later, new young voices are in charge of rescuing Chile’s folklore tradition to make it known in the current music scenario.

Natalia Contesse: from Research to Folklore

Before devoting to music, Natalia Contesse was part of the research world. However, she was never far from folklore because her research line was always centered on traditional culture and popular arts. She released her first album “Puñado de Tierra”, or “A Handful of Soil” in 2011, with Sello Azul record label, which edits Chilean music projects every two years. From her album, songs like “Décimas al agua” (“Tenths to Water”) stands out. In that song, Contesse follows the structure of tenths, previously popularized by Violeta Parra, while her voice, only accompanied by the guitar, asks water to keep on washing Chile’s natural landscapes. In 2013, she released “Corra la voz” (“Spread the Word”), her second album, in which she adds more wind instruments to her already solid strings, thus giving her songs a richer sound that tries to encompass Chile’s traditional music from north to south. This is reflected in her first single, “Quiero Bailar Contigo” (“I Want to Dance with You”).

Together with her music career, Natalia Contesse also participates in the “Escuela Chilena de Folclor y Oficios” (literally “Chilean School of Folklore and Works”). Located in La Reina district, in the same place Violeta set a tent to teach and spread Chilean popular art with the dream of, someday, found the first Chilean folklore university, the School keeps Violeta Parra’s dream alive. If offers a space in which traditional culture coexists with its contemporary manifestations, like Natalia Contesse’s music.

Evelyn Cornejo: the Latinamerican Spirit

With one self-edited album and another one released by the record label Sello Azul, Evelyn Cornejo has impressed many people with her melodies. With a more global scope, Evelyn’s songs recover sounds from Latinamerica and her lyrics express personal to political themes, the later affecting all of the continent. In this way, in “Los Ratones” (“The Rats”), Evelyn talks about lovelessness while accompanied by typical sounds of Bolivian folklore tradition. A self-confessed admirer of Violeta Parra, another song that stand out from her homonymous album is her version of “Versos por la niña muerta” (Verses for the Dead Girl).
La Pájara: Between Folklore and Pop

Behind La Pájara is singer-songwriter Javiera Bobadilla. “La Retirada”, the first single from her debut album “Malvarrosa” (“Hollyhock”), was chosen to represent Chile in the Folkor category of Festival de Viña del Mar 2014. The song won the competition and La Pájara was also the winner of the Best Performer award. Before this, she participated in the Festival del Huaso de Olmué, and in 2010, Javiera was chosen the voice of the official song that celebrated Chile’s bicenteary.

In “Malvarrosa”, folklore roots and more contemporary sounds flow in a natural way and seem to be only one. In “Me niego” (“I refuse to”), La Pájara presents us a fresh start with voice arrangements which make evident her contemporary youth. However, as the song progresses, strings come and give the song a touch that can make the singer stand side by side with the representatives of Chilean traditional folklore.

El Parcito: Pure Popular Song

Behind El Parcito, the duet formed by Patricia Díaz Vilches and Claudia Mena Cáceres, there’s a significant research work. With the intention of rescuing Chilean folkloric tradition in its purest state, Patricia and Claudia have gathered songs from countrysides, houses of singing, and taverns; songs that are not familiar to the city’s ears. Without much arrangements and a raw sound, their two published albums up to now are the results of this hard work of research and collection. In their last album “Como que me voy curando con el Parcito, de chinganas y casas de canto” (“Like I’m getting drunk with El Parcito, of taverns and houses of singing”), released in 2013, the song “El engreído” (“The Bumptious”), a creation of the researcher and folklorist Margot Loyola and Cristina Miranda, stands out. With the countryside spirit running high, the interpretation of El Parcito was rewarded in Premios Altazor 2014 as the Best Song of Folkloric Roots.

This post is also available in Spanish