06/02/2018 Culture

Violeta Parra, Famed Chilean Folk Singer, Remembered

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Violeta Parra - Chilean folk singer, political activists, poet and artist - among other talents, she took her own life on Feb. 5, 1967.

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

The Woody Guthrie of Chile, Violeta Parra both composed and sang songs from that encompassed the rich musical tapestry of Chile that became very popular among the poor and popular classes of the South American country.

 

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

In 1952 she began her extensive travels of the country to collect and curate the country’s folk and political songs, which she popularized on the radio. This was the first time Chile’s folks songs had been recorded and projected to a wide audience.

 

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

Two years later she won the Caupolican prize for her exceptional versions of Chile’s folk songs. That same decade Parra traveled to Europe and in France recorded Chile’s songs at Le Chant Du Monde. She later returned to Paris to record A Chilean in Paris released in 1965.

 

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

However, it was her influence on Latin American music, embodied in what became known as Nueva Musica - New Music - that Parra is still known for, 50 years after her death.

 

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

New Music lyrics are socially and politically conscious, capturing the socialist and revolutionary ambience of the 1950s and 1960s in Latin America using guitars and traditional flutes to transmit melodies.

 

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

Parra initiated and brought New Music to the popular forefront, influencing social justice movements. She was a member of Chile’s communist party.

She also had tremendous influence over other musicians across the Americas.

 

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

Mercedes Sosa of Argentina further popularized much of Parra’s original work, and Joan Baez from the U.S. often sang the Chilean artist’s folk music.

Not only was Parra an anthropologist of popular music, but an artist and ceramicist herself, she became the director of the Museum of Popular Art at the University of Conception in 1956. She curated her own exhibition at the Paris Louvre Museum in 1964.

 

Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra
Gentileza Fundación Museo Violeta Parra

Courtesy Fundación Museo Violeta Parra/ARCHIVE LANA

 
 
 

In an interview with a Swiss journalist in the 1960s Violeta said if given the chance to be one kind of artist, she would “chose to be with the people...It’s the people who motivate me to do all of these things.”

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