Musical Fusions in Chilean Musical Cultures

Jane Rivera
Stanford University
Santiago, Chile / Stanford, California
April 1997

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. Objective
  • 2. Background
  • 3. Theoretical Foundations
  • 3.1. Discovering two different musical cultures: A trip to the museums
  • 3.2. Encountering the reason and opportunity for exchange: An anthropological documentary
  • 3.3. Discovering the time for development: Perspectives from the history of Chile
  • 4. Methodology
  • 4.1. Criteria: What is musical fusion?
  • 4.2. Corpus of study and Hypothesis
  • 4.2.1. The Cueca
  • 4.2.2. Mapuche Music
  • 4.2.3. Chilean Popular Music in the '90s
  • 5. Results and Analyses
  • 5.1 The Cueca as evidence of european-indigenous influence on musical form?
  • 5.1.1. Actual cultural influences on the Cueca's musical form.
  • 5.1.2. The Cueca as a cultural indicator in Chile
  • 5.2. Mapuche Music: Superficial fusion and beyond
  • 5.2.1. Superficial fusion in Mapuche musical culture
  • 5.2.2. Discovering real musical fusion in Mapuche music
  • 5.3. Chilean Popular Music in the 90's: A weak flow of superficial fusion.
  • 6. Conclusion
  • 7. Bibliography/Discography
  • 8. Appendices

  • Preface

    A little over a year ago this month, I gave a brief presentation on Chilean music in my Spanish conversation class. I had only a weekend and the following resources to prepare the presentation: the knowledge of my teacher, a Chilean, Paloma Dâaz, the Internet, two small musical instruments (a pan flute and a small drum), souvenirs actually, that a friend had brought me from Chile, and, a very cheap compact disc from the Stanford Bookstore called "The Music of Chile." For a five minute presentation, these resources were perfect. Over the Internet I learned that the "Cueca" is both the national dance of Chile and a traditional musical form in Chile. Paloma helped me to discover that the musical instruments I had been given were made by indigenous groups in Chile. On the compact disc were several of these "cuecas" and other songs by famous musicians in Chilean history, such as "Gracias a la vida," by Violeta Parra. Although this material was certainly adequate for a short talk, it was clear to me as a musician that more research would be needed in order to truly learn about the musical culture in Chile.

    I would like to thank the URO committee and my adviser, Professor Chris Chafe, for providing all the funding and academic support which made my research possible both in Chile and at Stanford. Tomy professor at the Stanford Program in Santiago, Marâa de la Luz Hurtado, I give great thanks for her guidance and academic resources. I would like to thank her especially for introducing me to Professor Rodrigo Torres at the University of Chile, who quickly became my mentor and an inspiration for this project. To Megan Walseth and Fabia Fuenzalida, I am indebted to you both for all the advice and administrative help that allowed me to complete my research in Santiago and in all of Chile.

    1. Objective

    The goal of this paper is to discuss certain aspects of Chilean musical culture. Specifically, it examines the possiblitity of musical "fusion" between distinct musical cultures of indigenous groups and European immigrants to Chile throughout history. To ascertain whether or not there has ever been this cross-cultural exchange between different ethno-musical cultures, we will take a look at three aspects of the current musical culture in Chile: the traditional/folklore music, indigenous music, and modern popular music.

    2. Background

    The idea for this research began to form that weekend last spring quarter when I listened to "The Music of Chile" and wondered how the music on the CD and the little instruments I had for the presentation fit together in the grander scheme of music- making over in Chile. I wondered if the "indigenous" instruments, or rather, the cultures that had made them, created/influenced/rejected the type of music that had been declared "Chilean music" on the sparse liner notes.

    The question first interested me first from a musicological perspective. If the indigenous cultures did indeed influence the current musical culture, I thought perhaps there might be a form of music for Chileans analogous to what Blues or Jazz represents in the United States-- a form of ethnocultural musical fusion which various ethnic populations identify as belonging to their own culture as well as their national culture. Of course, a comparison between Jazz or the Blues in the U.S. and a form of ethnocultural musical fusion in Chile is not the most precise cultural parallel. Logically, the better cultural parallel would be to discover whether there was in Chile a mix between the music of the European conquistadors and that of the indigenous people, as there had been in North America between the European immigrants and Native American tribes. Although the first parallel lacks the cultural basis of the second, more logical parallel, the underlying idea is the same. Whenever cultures of any kind interact socially, the possibility of musical interaction also must exist. A future project might attempt to discover how North American indigenous musical cultures interacted with those of the early "Americans". This paper, however, will be limited to discovering whether a musical fusion between immigrant and indigenous cultures existed in Chile, from musicological and sociological perspectives.

    3. Theoretical Foundations

    Given that each of the following conditions exist, the potential for formation of a new musical culture would also exist:

    1. Two or more different cultures with different musics.
    2. A reason for interaction.
    3. A place or opportunity to have cultural exchange.
    4. The time for conditions 2 and 3 to develop.

    Preliminary research revealed that these conditions existed in Chile, making possible the potential formation of a new musical culture. What follows is the path of discovery I followed in this preliminary research.

    3.1 Discovering two different musical cultures: A trip to the museums.

    The Spanish conquistadors to Chile certainly brought their musical tradition with them from Spain. This becomes obvious upon visiting any historical museum in Santiago or other regions where the Spanish had settled during the colonial era. The Museum of History and Archaeology in Valdivia has a large collection of musical artifacts from regions of Spanish, and also German, colonization. From visiting the various museums in the country, it is clear that although the "New World" was not solely inhabited by the Spanish, it seems the great majority of musical artifacts left over from the colonial period are from Spain. The instruments on display in the museums, representing a period of three centuries from 1600 to 1900, included a plethora of guitars, some harps, some pianos, accordians, and early violins (see Appendix I). The museums also offer evidence that Chile's indigenous cultures had their own musical cultures before the Conquest. The Museum of Precolumbian Art in Santiago has an enormous collection of indigenous musical instruments from many regions of Chile, including many types of flutes, drums, and other wind instruments coming from various eras, depending on the indigenous cultures they represent. The only indigenous culture that appeared to have musical instruments from the colonial period was the Araucarian culture, commonly known as the Mapuche peoples.

    3.2 Encountering the reason and opportunity for exchange: An anthropological documentary.

    In the course of making a formal anthropological inquiry, I stumbled upon a Chilean television documentary that concerned itself with debating the existence of a Chilean "biotype." One of the most important statistics that the Chilean anthropologists mentioned about their research was that 85 percent of Chileans have a mesoendomorphic biotype, or, a biotype that mixes genetic aspects of the traditional European biotypes with those of biotypes more native to South America. This shows that, at a quite profound level, there had definitely been `exchange' between the cultures! Although this biological statistic does not prove that the exchange was either cultural or musical, it at least establishes that the opportunity for such an interaction did exist. Although the implications of a "conquest" cannot be ignored, it still seems reasonable that even in the worst case scenario--a situation of hate or war between the cultures--there would have been opportunities for some cultural exchange, perhaps in homes in which there was influence of both cultures or in other areas like missions or churches.

    3.3 Discovering the time for development: Perspectives from the history of Chile

    The aforementioned documentary reveals that `The Conquest' in Chile was not the same conquest that occurred in other parts of South and Central America. Chilean history notes that the indigenous groups offered a strong and sustained resistance to colonization, with wars between the Spanish/Creole population and the Mapuches until close to the beginning of the twentieth century. (Faron 11) Where the anthropologists find opportunity for sustained biological interaction between distinct biological cultures, I offer that period of 300+ years of interaction as opportunity for reflection and observation between musical cultures, no matter what the degree of hostility. The idea of "cultural exchange" does not necessarily connote an active and simultaneous participation of both cultures. It could be a situation as simple as a person of one culture hearing a melody or an instrument of the other culture and deciding to use it. That is the essence of improvisation and much of music. For this reason I believe that musical interchange did happen in Chile, and, because the period of opportunities for such an interchange was so long, that a great number of musical interchanges must have occurred.

    4. Methodology

    The following section describes how the hypothesis was researched. Once again, the goal of the investigation is to discover if a european-indigenous fusion exists in the Chilean musical culture.

    4.1 Criteria: What is musical fusion?

    I define two types of musical fusion as criteria for the investigation: real fusion and superficial fusion.

    Real fusion would be cases in which musical forms are found to have influences or vestiges of both European and indigenous musical forms. A simple example of real fusion in the modern world is Blues. The Blues has a musical form containing both Anglican and African cultural influences, but is neither a European nor African musical form exclusively. Another case of real fusion would be cases in which influences of two musical cultures are found in a single musical instrument.

    Superficial fusion would be musical forms or instruments that contain European and indigenous influence, but with one or the other clearly dominant--so dominant that the musical form or instrument could still be recognized as part of the dominant culture. An example of superficial fusion would be the appearance of rhythms, melodies, or instruments of one musical culture in a genre of music from the other culture. This phenomenon occurs many times in popular music. For example, a Rock song can have African drums and even use African rhythms with the percussion, but the song still belongs to the musical form of Rock.

    4.2 Corpus of study and Hypothesis: Where to look for musical fusions? Which type of fusion do we expect to find?

    4.2.1 The Cueca

    Following my first instinct, I chose Cueca music to investigate my hypothesis of real fusion. Logically, if there were to exist a real European-indigenous musical fusion in Chile, the Cueca--the music for the `national dance' of a population 85 percent mestizo--would be the first place to begin. I also postulate that the Cueca might show evidence of superficial fusion.

    4.2.2 Mapuche Music.

    I hypothesize that Mapuche music could contain evidence of real and/or superficial fusion, and will analyze musical works and instruments in order to test this hypothesis. 423

    4.2.3 Chilean Popular Music of the `90s.

    I hypothesize that modern popular music in Chile could also reflect European and indigenous influences, expecting that superficial fusions will dominate this genre, but not excluding the possibility of real fusions.

    5. Results and Analysis

    5.1 The Cueca as evidence of European-indigenous influence on musical form: Absence of musical fusion, yet, indicator of social tension?

    5.1.1 Absence of musical fusion of European-indigenous origen

    An investigation of the cueca reveals that the ethnomusicological history of its musical form is indeed a form of real fusion, but not between European and indigenous cultures in Chile. As a musical form, the cueca is a fusion between the various European cultures represented by "the Spaniard" in Chile. The Cueca music contains vestiges of Arab, Andalucian, and Jewish musical cultures, displaying a real fusion which represents the culture of "tridimensional Spain" (Claro Valdés, 23) from which came the conquistadors to Chile.

    Why was my initial hypothesis wrong? Why does the Cueca not possess a fusion between Spanish and indigenous music? It appears that the "reason and the opportunity for cultural interchange"--second assumption of my Theoretical Foundations--did not exist, despite the biological interchange.

    Samuel Claro Valdés, in his anthology of the history of the Cueca, suggests the following as evidence:

    We can affirm that the true submission of the "New World" to the conquistador--and that which is the origin of a new American race, with its own features and idiosyncracies--was produced through the path of mixing between the Spanish man (principally Andalucian) and the indigenous woman. Here we find the key to understanding the phenomenon of the dominance of oral tradition: racial mixing gives rise to a cultural mix of two axes which seldom coincide. The woman preserves, in the secret of her intimacy, the most uncompromisable values of her indigenous ancestors. The man, on the other hand, maintains an Arab pride in his superiority over the woman, and is charged to maintain and transfer to his contemporaries and descendents all the tradition that he had received orally for generations.

    Such evidence towards the relationship between man and woman is reasonable. Still, I believe that the opportunities for musical interchange could have existed outside of this relationship. What happened in the missions and churches?

    It appears that the Cueca as a dance was not cultivated in those places. The Cueca was part of the everyday life of the creoles, and was a secular and popular dance in their culture. (Claro Valdés 44). Claro Valdés also proposes a more specific idea of the historical situation between the creoles and indigenous groups in Chile:

    In the countries of the Southern Cone, mainly Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, the mixing is clearly Hispanic, especially in Chile where the indigenous population was continuously at war, culturally they did not adapt to where elements of the Hispanic Arab-Andalucian culture were dominant. This, together with what we suggested in the Introduction concerning cultural mixing through the paternal line, reinforces our conviction about the persistence of the Arabic-Andalucian musical tradition in the continent. (p.30)

    I had incorrectly assumed that the genetic mix between the Spanish and the indigenous groups would have created at least a superficial cultural fusion that could be seen in the resulting mestizo culture. The theory that Claro Valdés promotes says that the creole influence was so dominant that the indigenous culture had nothing valuable in comparison with the European traditions, despite the racial mix. I now agree with Claro Valdés' assertion that the Cueca does not contain indigenous influence.

    € 5.1.2 The Cueca as a cultural indicator?

    Although it seems that the Cueca as a musical form does not contain a fusion that incorporates indigenous elements, in its various forms as a dance and social spectacle (see Appendix II), it could illustrate the social ramifications of a meztiso population that has repressed its indigenous culture.

    In the aformentioned documentary (an anthropological debate about the existence of a Chilean biotype) sociologists also debated whether the class system so apparent in Chilean culture was based on the level of "mestizaje" or "mestizo-ness" in the population. Such a debate would be interesting in seeing if the various manifestations of the Cueca (Salon Cueca, Cueca Chorra, Cueca Campesina) express a different social reality depending on this so-called level of mestizaje. As I had neither the time nor the resources to address this question, I leave it open for future research.

    5.2 Mapuche Music: Superficial fusion exists, how about real fusion?

    If the Spaniards did have the dominant culture in the early years of modern Chilean history, it should not be surprising, musicologically, that Mapuche influence was not found in the popular music in the era when the Cueca developed. I ask whether there is an analogous situation in the Mapuche culture. If the Spanish culture was most dominant, it should follow that there is Spanish influence in Mapuche culture. This next section will explore whether the Spanish musical culture influenced the musical culture of the Mapuches.

    5.2.1 Superficial fusion in Mapuche musical culture

    We can find many instances of superficial fusion in the construction of Mapuche musical instruments. It appears that the Chilean merchants of the nineteenth century had a great influence on the diffusion of these instruments. Also, there were Belgian priests in the Mapuche regions who also introduced instruments into the Mapuche musical culture (Arce 92-94).

    The following is a list of Mapuche musical instruments of European influence/origin (see Appendix III and IV):

    (Arce 92-94, Greenhill 20)
    European Instrument Mapuche Name Type of Instrument
    Sleigh bell Kadkawilla ideophone
    Metal Clarin ? aerophone
    Mouth Harp Trompe ideophone
    Harmonica ? aerophone
    Banjo ? cordophone
    Acordion ? aerophone
    [Horn Trumpet Trutruka, Kullkull aerophone]

    I found that three of the instruments on the list could be found in Mapuche musical groups along with other instruments native to the Mapuche culture. The sleigh bell, the mouth harp and horn trumpets appear together with instruments of local origin like the kultrón, the trutruka y wood flutes. Although the horn is of Mapuche origin in its construction (Arce 98), I place it in brackets as an instrument of European influence because the appearance of the "cow-horn originated . . . at the beginning of the seventeenth century . . . [when] the Mapuches met and stole livestock from the Spanish" (Arce 98). I argue that this instrument is an example of real fusion between the cultures, albeit one that does not represent very well a fusion between musical cultures. Certainly the trutuka represents a relatively new instrument in the Mapuche musical culture that would not have existed without the influence of landholding Spaniards, yet the Spaniards certainly were not using their livestock in a musical manner! This horn trumpet tenuously represents two cultures in real fusion, though not a real fusion of a cross-cultural musical type.

    5.2.2 Discovering real musical fusion in Mapuche music

    Unfortunately, the resources to research Mapuche music live or via recording were not available to me during my time in Chile. At this time, I do not have a single musical work of Mapuche origin to present as evidence of musical fusion (or lack thereof) in terms of musical form. All I was able obtain were some photographs of Mapuche musical groups that show some traditional Mapuche instruments in combination with instruments of European origin (see Appendix IV). Right now I can argue onlythat there is at least a superficial musical fusion in the Mapuche musical culture. To investigate whether the music played by these groups is an example of real fusion, I would need to analyze and compare Mapuche musical forms of both the precolumbian and modern eras.

    The problems in obtaining musical resources for this part of the research included the following:

    1. The articles that discuss Mapuche musical instruments do not contain analytical information about the music played with them.
    2. There is an article by Ernesto Gonzalez Greenhill that refers to an actual repertoire of recorded Mapuche music, however, the archive at the University of Chile that is supposed to have these recordings, no longer does. (Torres, 19 Mar. 1997).
    3. It is extremely difficult to see Mapuche musical groups in live performances because the access to Mapuche reservations in Chile is restricted to the most superficial of tourist tours. (El Mercurio, 30 December 1996) Although in the near future it could be possible to have this "ethno-turismo" there are no guarantees that a tourist like myself would be able to hear Mapuche musicians perform.
    4. I encountered only one documentary dealing with Mapuche musical culture, and it concentrates on a single musical ceremony of a Machi (shaman) woman with her kultrón. I never encountered any videos or documentaries concerning group music in the Mapuche musical culture.

    5.3. Chilean Popular Music in the `90s: A weak flow of superficial fusion.

    This last category in the Corpus of study also appears to contain elements of superficial and real musical fusion. Lamentably, there was not enough time for me to collect recording samples or to even discover actual song titles for this investigation. The following section is my analysis of information from an interview with the musicologist Rodrigo Torres.

    It is possible to find modern popular Chilean musical groups, like Los Tres, that play tributes to cuecas of the past. This certainly signifies a kind of musical fusion, though not between different cultures since the members of Los Tres are not Mapuche tribesman. In this type of their music we see superficial fusion because the sound of the song has changed in terms of instruments, yet the musical form is pure Cueca. Instead of acoustic guitars, accordions and tambourines that we usually associate with Cueca, we hear instead the modern drum set and electric guitars. Los Tres play Rock "covers", if you will, of traditional Cuecas. Other Chilean pop groups, though, do not play "covers" of Cueca, but instead take one aspect of the Cueca, usually the rhythm and incorporate it into Rock. Congreso and Fulano are two groups that use Cueca rhythms in such a way.

    In terms of cross-cultural musical fusions, the group Los Jaivas have exhibited traces of mestizo-indigenous musical fusion of the superficial type. Los Jaivas are reported to use Mapuche instruments like trutrókas in their Rock setup, though they do not play the instruments in the same tradition that the Mapuches [supposedly] do. Their musical works are not considered to have actual influence of any Mapuche musical rhythms, melodies or forms.

    6. Conclusion

    Alas, it is quite obvious that my objective has not been achieved. More research, particularly in the Mapuche musical culture, needs to be completed for this idea of "real" cross-cultural musical fusion to be investigated in Chile. In regards to the "superficial" type of musical fusion, we can see there is some evidence towards this phenomena in Mapuche musical instruments and in modern Chilean Rock music. Concerning the music of the Cueca, it appears that the idea of musical fusion is as sociological as it is musicological--a topic that requires resources from both perspectives to research well. If there is a Spanish-Mapuche version of Blues or Jazz, it is not easily found, and it probably is not the Cueca. In the future, I hope that access to these resources, as well as those in the Mapuche musical community will become available for further study and investigation.

    7a. Bibliography

    Arce, José Perez de. "Cronologâa de los instrumentos sonores del Area Extremo Sur Andina." Revista Musical Chilena. University of Chile, 1986.

    Claro Valdés, Samuel. Chilena o cueca tradicional. Catholic University of Chile, 1994.

    Documentary. "¿Existe una raza chilena?" The National Channel of Television of Chile, 1993. Personal Colection of Profesor HernÖn Pons, Catholic University of Chile.

    Documentary. "Machi Eugenia" Chilean Museum of Precolombian Art. Year unknown. Library of Stanford University Program in Latin America, Santiago, Chile.

    El Mercurio. "Mapuches open communities to tourists" December 30, 1996. CHIP News Web Site. UVA Communications 1996.

    Faron, Louis C. The Mapuche Indians of Chile. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1968. Library of Stanford University Program in Latin America, Santiago, Chile.

    Greenhill, Ernesto Gonzalez. "Vigencias de Instrumentos Musicales Mapuches." Revista Musical Chilena. University of Chile, 1986.

    Greenhill, Ernesto Gonzalez and Ana M.O. Pisani. "El Trompe Mapuche: Nuevos usos para un antiguo instrumento musical." Revista Musical Chilena. University of Chile, 1986.

    Interview. Professor Rodrigo Torres, musicologist. Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Chile. 19 March 1997.


    COFOLCHI."La cueca, danza de Chile" Sonotec. Chile, 197?.

    Rey, Alberto & Los Paleteados del Puerto."Cuecas..." Sony Music Entertainment Chile Ltd. Chile, 1991.

    Parra, Roberto & Angel."Las cuecas del tio Roberto" Alerce. Chile, 1991.

    8. Appendices

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