Monty Corder Dan Barlow ENG 1B

Construção & Deconstruction: Philosophical and Sociological Development & Compositional Progression of Rock and Anglo Folk Revival in Latin America in the 60s and 70s

The meteoric rise of Latin American rock and Latin folk revival (AKA “nueva cancion” or “nueva cancion Latinoamericana”) in the 60s and 70s can be directly attributed to the internationally-spanning influence of artists from the UK and USA, such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan, respectively. However, with mass political unrest in the region and the growing influence of Communism, particularly after the unprecedented success of the Cuban Revolution, because of its popularity as well as the rapidly changing social realities of the region, music began to be used as a means of popular protest, promulgating left-wing ideology to those who may have otherwise been unfamiliar or misinformed with its beliefs. Through a deconstructive critical analysis of music genres and sociopolitical movements as well as music’s place within these movements, all with respect to the unique material conditions and melting-pot history of Latin America, the initially imported genres and the vaguely anti-establishment ideology of an

anti-war, “pinko” hippie USA would instead give way to a framework and a musical tradition that was both entirely localized to Latin America and unique from its origins in the Anglosphere, especially as they progressed concurrently; by comparing and contrasting regional genres/scenes, individual artists, contemporary social movements, and cultural components in shaping approaches to deconstructive analysis which created a unified ideology promulgated by music, we can find out how political movements in Latin America managed to organize effectively, the

role music played in this organization, and why the US failed to do this and Latin America largely succeeded.

Just as Anglo folk revival did with Celtic-Anglo-turn-American folk traditions, both with popular songs of the American South and British Isles, nueva cancion (literally “new song”) rooted their music in regional styles, such as trova in Cuba, candombe in Uruguay, or indigenous Aymara music in the Andean Region. With Castro’s 11 de Julio Vanguard Movement and Che Guevara becoming a martyr and an icon for revolution in Latin America and abroad, rock and folk would very quickly be used to correlate the leftist movements which the artists were representing as a figurehead with the indigenous history of the region, and, by consequence, root it in Latin identity as a form of ethnic nationalism, usually one which promoted the idea of a unified Latin America (pan-Americanism), in the face of right-wing ideology and caudillos, which tended to be unabashed in their connection to or adoration of the First World, and also frequently made mention of regional heroes from Latin history, particularly (but not exclusively) during the Wars of Independence, to further correlate socialism with anticolonial and Latin identity; many times, the songs are explicit in this comparison, with one song going as far as to say “Bolivar launched a star that, together, with Marti, shined / Fidel dignified her to walk through these lands” (Parra 3:22). Rock, while initially resistant to indigenous influence as it saw rock itself as culturally transgressive, also had a cultural reckoning, becoming a form of political protest; throughout Latin America, popular music became a political tool, and right-wing dictatorships went to great lengths to censor it throughout this era.

Charles Manson is largely credited with killing the Hippie Movement in the United States and Great Britain in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He did not, but if he did, then it would have been a favor. That may be inflammatory–I am well aware–but the truth is that, by the time his

cult’s exploits (see: murder) gained international notoreity, the ideological basis of Anglo folk revival, sexual liberation, de-segregation, and, most consequentially, Vietnam anti-war movements, while still issuing powerful condemnations towards the United States in their continued and prolonged extermination campaign in Southeast Asia, had essentially been lost. With polarizing, if not antagonizing, figureheads of the movement such as Bob Dylan, whose direct role or position in the movement was one of a circumstantial bard at best, coming into conflict with other prominent musicians who were convicted Communist sympathizers, such as his storied drama with Phil Ochs–who will become prominent later–the movement lost direction and organization. The result? The Beatles and the Summer of Love compounded into Manson’s cult’s mass murder. The 1968 White Album was something of an ideological basis for him, and his apoplectic rants on a supposed “hidden meaning” behind songs off of the album, which he connected to verses from Revelations in the New Testament of the Bible, would later be denounced by members of the Liverpudlian rock group as having no basis in reality; these were songs about fairgrounds and pigs and so on, after all. In effect, while the popular notion is that he killed the movements, the wide publicization served as a metaphorical “shutting of the doors” of a movement that, with even less centralized guidance and an ideological basis that was already far-removed from any origin point, became far more insular and, with a population of

college-educated whites, evolved into a cluster of loosely-connected communalist groups moving to Northern California. They took up Ayn Rand and Marshall McLuhan, creating a liberal-libertarian ideology that would serve as a basis for the founders of Silicon Valley–the geographic location in which many of these communalist sects were based out of, with more than just a few pillars of future corporations finding themselves as members of these groups–most

notably, Steve Jobs. It was over; slowly and painfully, the New Left which supported Castro and sought to create real, sweeping change in American society had defanged itself.

The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Phil Ochs inspired more than just a few college-educated whites to endorse vaguely anti-establishment and pro-drug political positions, or start cults, for that matter. While the former’s effects on the landscape of the music industry of the United States and Great Britain are well-documented, with the launch of Rubber Soul largely being credited as something of a singular event which saw the nature of the commercialization of groups being fundamentally altered from the industry largely promoting groups which would cover other acts’ compositions to labels prioritizing the signing and promotion of groups which wrote their own material. This same transition, however, also occurred in Latin America. There were more than just a few Latin American rock groups which preceded the rise of The Beatles, mainly concentrated in Mexico, but they usually either played Spanish-language covers of English-language, American hits, or, alternatively, as was the case with what is usually ascribed the title of the “First Latin American rock song,” Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba,” the groups and their performances were actually American in origin and either fluent (enough) in Spanish or featured vocalists singing phonetically, and then those groups were imported into Mexican airwaves and sold as authentically “of” the region; Ritchie Valens was not a native Spanish speaker and, in fact, was born and raised in Southern California. With the rise of the Fab Four, however, came a peculiar, if not underreported, audience–The Beatles, to this day, are arguably more popular per capita in Latin America than any other region in the world, including the United States and their home country of Great Britain. Their influence on Latin rock is immutable, not only because of the international effects they had on labels’ changed focus on

groups who wrote their own material, but because they directly inspired many of the teenagers who would go on to become the godfathers of regional rock to form groups of their own. Los Shakers of Uruguay, one of the more on-the-nose groups to emerge in the wake of Latin American Beatlemania, decided to form the band after the future members saw the movie A Hard Day’s Night in theatres. Much of the early Latin rock landscape was defined through beat groups and a teenie-bopper melodrama reminiscent of late 50s Spector Brill Building outings. To put it succinctly, a 2021 review of Los Gatos’ 1968 sophomore effort, Viento, Dile a la Lluvia (Wind, Tell it to the Rain), opens with the lines “When you listen to this record, the first thing you will think is going to be: ‘This is older than shit itself!’” and while that is obviously a contemporary account, historiographically I cannot find myself judging much of this early work–from groups such as Los Shakers, Los Gatos, and Los Beatniks–in any other way. This is not to say that any of it is bad; I quite like a good deal of it! The reality, however, is that many of these early outings are rooted in styles that would have been considered dead on arrival in the North. That being said, beat music, and The Beatles, by proxy, have continued to be something of a compositional basis for many Latin styles for decades. It is under these pretenses which brings us to Uruguay and the ideological birth of nueva cancion.

Candombe is a style of music and dance from Uruguay with a history similar to many other regional Latin American styles–originating from the descendants of African slaves, it syncretizes African approaches to rhythm with European and Native South American instrumentation and approaches to harmony and melody. In the late ‘60s, also in the wake of The Beatles and social movements from the North, youth of the time sought to incite a similar movement of transgression in the face of conservative Uruguayan society through combining an

endemic style of music with progressive lyrics and new approaches to composition inspired through the popularity of rock, beat music, and psychedelia. What is particularly interesting about this is that while Uruguayan youth chose to achieve subversion through syncretism, Argentina’s youth, at least, at the time, saw the complete rejection of tango, which was seen as antiquated and reactionary, in their early groups. Traditional candombe drums were eschewed for congas and drum kits while careful consideration was still given to retaining the recognizable rhythmic basis of the Afro-Uruguayan genre as well as Brazilian guitar techniques from the export-focused genre of bossa nova, a style which was, at the time, seeing internal criticism reaching a screaming peak as one of the first democratically-elected left-wing governments of the region was ousted in favor for a regressive despot. Eventually, this transgression caught up with the genre, however, and with the installation of dictator Juan María Bordaberry, the style was outlawed.

Bossa nova, which rose to prominence in the late 50s and early 60s, similarly attempted to syncretize a regional style of music with imported compositional sensibilities. These two styles were the Brazilian samba, which, just as candombe, originated from the descendants of African slaves–a practice which continued a century past the country’s liberation from Portugal, unlike many other Latin American countries, which, with their liberation, came its outlawing–and the uniquely American genres of blues and jazz, which, in themselves, saw their material and cultural origins in a context nearly directly mirroring that of Brazil. It seems somewhat ironic, then, that such a solidarious and oppression-conscientious genre would serve regressive purposes. While bossa nova initially appealed to the sensibilities of the emerging Brazilian middle-and-upper-class, American yuppies, and slowly-rotting Jazz Generation-types

thanks to the outrageous success of A&M Records and their importation of the genre with its insistence on ignoring societal plagues for the much more palatable and idyllic lyrical themes of quiet nights, quiet dreams, romantic melodrama, and so on, as well as its compositional traditions being easily equatable to the 1920s Great American Songbook, by the mid-’60s, native Brazilian artists, inspired by the compositional techniques of the genre while sharply protesting its commercialization and general conciliatory nature sought to reclaim the genre for political protest, especially after the coup in ‘64 which saw art, music, and theatre becoming heavily censored. In this post-bossa nova state, two approaches to this reconciliation emerged: MPB, música popular Brasileira, or popular Brazilian music, and tropicalia. The latter preceded the former, emerging in the late 60s, and saw bossa nova mixing with psychedelia, rock n roll, and experimental styles of production, just like candombe pop. With lyrics that vaguely flirted with left-wing politics, as to try and skirt the government’s ban on dissent, this brief stint of a movement would, following the arrest of figureheads Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, give way to the more subdued instrumental leanings of MPB in the early ‘70s. This period of MPB is marked by a moving away from psychedelia, considering the government preferred the regressive compositional overtones of bossa nova in opposition to what they saw as juvenility and transgression from the rising popularity of rock music, and, instead, a syncretization between an already syncretized genre of bossa nova with the instrumentation and rhythmic complexity of samba, its compositional and cultural origin, the rich orchestration of baroque pop, and the lyrical adaptation of the Iberian poetic forms of decima and copla; alongside this, the genre also saw the acknowledgement, at least ideologically and in a very subtextual manner, of those Anglo folk revival artists–from Bob Dylan to Phil Ochs to older artists such as Tom Paxton and Pete Seeger–and, much like the new wave of Anglo folk revival artists to older artists like Seeger and

Guthrie, the movement also saw particular tribute and emphasis being placed on the influence of older samba artists, most notably Cartola, who was very popular in the 1920s and 30s–a pioneer of the genre–before being largely forgotten for thirty years.

However, none were more overt in their connection, their solidarity, and their influence, to, with, and from, Anglo folk revival than Victor Jara, the centerpiece of the Chilean nueva cancion Chilena movement. Playing translated, Spanish-language covers of old Anglo folk revival hymns and retaining an intimate relationship with Phil Ochs, whom Ochs considered his closest friend, it may appear as though Jara is something of a continuation of the initially culturally and compositionally regressive scene of 50s and early 60s Latin American beat music. However, unlike those groups, Victor Jara applied the philosophical concept of deconstruction in his approach to composition and syncretization. While much of his music, particularly early on, was strictly rooted in indigenous Andean stylings such as the zamba and milonga–characterized through a use of flutes, acoustic guitars, and sparse percussion–his approach can best be summarized through an analysis of his song “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz,” the leading track off of the album of the same title. The song can best be characterized through the stanza

“Uncle Ho, our song Is a flame of pure love A dove in a dovecot

An olive in an olive grove It is a universal hymn

A chain that will overcome The right to live in peace”

In that it is an expression of solidarity with Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh through his struggle for liberation, but, more importantly, it is comparing the struggle of Vietnam with that of Latin America and declaring that both are espousing the same goals. This can be compared with the instrumentation of the song, which is unique among Jara’s discography in that it is a syncretization of Andean folk with rock. It features the distinctly un-Andean tambourine for percussion, bluesy, red-hot electric guitars layered on top of one-another, and a contrapuntal bassline courtesy of an electric bass mingling with fingerstyle acoustic parts and Andean flute melodies. The mixing of genres was a wildly polarizing move from Jara at the time, but in retrospect, it reads as a poignant, microcosmic reflection of the central theme of the song–the two emerging genres of Latin rock and Latin protest folk were not opposites and should not be treated as competing styles. Unlike the initial regressive rejection of tango from the Argentinian youth, Jara claims, and just like the struggles of Vietnam and Latin America, these two scenes ultimately share the same message and the same goals. That being said, Jara was not the first to combine these two sounds, and while he was instrumental in bridging the gap between the two regions, his approach to deconstruction would be applied elsewhere.

The 1970s, particularly due to the dissolution of The Beatles, would see one of the biggest sources of inspiration for Latin rock since, funnily enough, the rise of The Beatles. Los Beatniks, Los Shakers, and Los Gatos by the turn of the decade had all broken up, with two of the latters’ members, Litto Nebbia and Pappo, going on to form other groups. However, in their wake, other bands that had been steadily gaining popularity in the shadow of Los Gatos would emerge. Almendra, Arco Iris, Vox Dei, and Manal, bands all formed in ‘67 and ‘68, shortly after

the founding of Los Gatos, would finally see a commercial breakthrough, with each of them taking decidedly different artistic directions and being guided by different ideologies.

Almendra, founded by Luis Alberto Spinetta, would also break up soon after the turn of the decade, but that only meant that Spinetta would go on to found another rock outfit–resulting in one of, if not the most, consequential

Atahualpa Yupanqui

Deconstruction and the consistent syncretic ideological basis between nueva cancion/MPB and Latin American progressive rock/Tropicalia in the 70s

Manifesto by Luis Alberto Spinetta Nueva trova in Cuba

Nuevo cancionero in Argentina Nueva cancion Chilena in Chile Cancion necesaria in Venezuela MPB in Brazil

Nueva canción nicaragüense in Nicaragua

Nueva cancion Uruguayo/Candombe beat in Uruguay

“The CULTURE WAR REPORT.” YouTube, uploaded by Brad Troemel, 30 Jan. 2022, Video is unlisted.

Parra, Angela. “Cancion por la Unidad Latinoamericana.” Spotify.

g. Translated by me.

Put jara in here