On the centenary of Violeta Parra’s birth, we select five songs by the legendary Chilean folk musician who continues to inspire musicians and social movements alike.
Through her music, the folk singer Violeta Parra championed social justice and political affirmation among her fellow Chileans, particularly the rural poor and working classes marginalised and repressed by ruling sectors whose interests directly contradicted the basic rights of the majority population. Having grown up in southern Chile’s impoverished countryside, Violeta’s seething outrage at the indignity and suffering she witnessed imposed upon her people was offset by the harmonious serenity of songs which brimmed with political agency. However, she suffered depression for many years and committed suicide in 1967 at the age of 49.
Even prior to her death, Violeta Parra was a huge influence across Latin America. Along with the Argentinian folk musician Atahualpa Yupanqui, she inspired the nueva canción movement which resituated traditional folklore towards socio-political goals, understanding that music was a far more effective tool for developing political consciousness in the popular sectors who often had little access to radio or television and endured high illiteracy rates. Musicians such as Mercedes Sosa, Victor Jara, Facundo Cabral and Silvio Rodríguez drew inspiration from Parra’s music and exported her ideas of human dignity and popular unity around the world. Today, musicians across Latin America and the world continue to reference her work and, more importantly, her galvanising message.
To celebrate the centenary of Violeta Parra’s birth on 4 October 1917, here are five of her greatest songs. You can listen to the playlist on our YouTube channel here: Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below.