La Cueca Presentada por Violeta Parra

A 27 track traditional folk album (43m 42s) — released November 3rd 2017 on Death Is Not The End

Death Is Not The End reissue a rare early LP from Chilean songwriter, folklorist and visual artist Violeta Parra.

In this collection, Volume III of Parra's Folk Music of Chile series, Parra introduces us to the Cueca, a traditional folk music style and Chile's national dance, which is sung and danced at parties and festivities. Although Cuecas were played on the radio, Parra introduces listeners to popular forms of Cueca she recovered in her field work collecting traditional songs. Navigating Chile's thin land mass from Santiago to Concepción, Parra heard people in the countryside performing these songs. In her introduction, Parra identifies four types of Cueca: the short Corta, the waltz Valceada, the long Larga voluntaria, and the Balance/obligatoria where the singer individually calls on a man and then a women to dance. Casting herself in the role of ethnomusicologist, this intense musical investigation of Chile's popular folk song traditions went on to greatly influence Parra's own songwriting. The connection with her country's traditions earned her the reputation as Chile's foremost poet and folk singer.

Violeta Parra was born on the 4th October 1917 in San Carlos, Chillán, south of the country's capital Santiago. Her father was a music teacher and her mother a campesina (farmhand). Music was entwined in the family environment and she started to sing from the age of ten. After leaving Chillán to study in Santiago in 1934, she started singing traditional Latin American boleros and Mexican corridos in the capital's bars with her siblings. In 1952 Parra and her brother Nicanor began collecting and recording folk songs from the country. Eventually comprising five volumes of El Folklore de Chile, released between 1957 and 1961. In 1963, whilst in Paris, she recorded songs that would be posthumously released on Canciones reencontradas en París in 1971. These songs cemented Parra's reputation as a socially concerned song writer and included songs such as Arauco tiene una pena which describe the struggle of Chile's indigenous Mapuche people against colonialism. Another, La Carta, denounced the repression of the Jorge Alessandri's Government (1958-1964) during which Parra's brother Roberto was incarcerated for supporting striking workers. Such songs repurpose the time-signatures and phrasing of the Cueca's to make some of her most candid political statements.

As well as a musician, Parra was a practicing artist working with traditional textile techniques to make arpilleras (tapestries). She exhibited her paintings, sculptures and arpilleras at the Louvre, Paris in 1964, the first solo show by a Latin American artist. The influence of the Cueca emerges once again in Parra's last album Las últimas composiciones de Violeta Parra, 1966 (her Last Compositions) which included some of her best known songs such as Gracias a la vida. The album also serves as an auto-eulogy, Parra was giving her thanks to life before her suicide in 1967. Gracias a la vida has become an anthem for Latin Americans and has been extensively covered by artists including the Argentine Mercedes Sosa, Joan Baez and Chileans including Parra's own children Isabel Parra and Ángel Parra. Parra left an indelible mark on Chilean Music and inspired a generation of musicians of La nueva canción Chilena (The Chilean New Song). The movement celebrated the country's folk traditions and indigenous past and present with incredible social commitment for which Parra set the tone.

The last song on the first side of Parra's Last Compositions includes La cueca de los poetas (The Poets' Cueca) written by Violeta and her brother, now the established poet Nicanor Parra. The Poets' Cueca is a homage to Chile's poets Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda (both nobel laureates) and Vicente Huidobro. Through the Cueca, Parra's later oeuvre is linked with her earlier field work collecting the songs in this volume. In Gracias a la vida, Parra speaks of the various gifts life gave her. In return, Parra's poetry and song gave a lot to her audience. Her voice resonates through the cultural landscape of Chile one hundred years after her birth. The 4th October, the day Parra was born, is now Chile's National Day of Music and Musicians, a testament to the mark she left on her county. Many of the songs in this volume might have been lost had Parra not tirelessly worked to preserve them. Parra's closing words on this volume speak to her generosity in helping listeners to understand more about Chilean song traditions:

"Well, here I leave you this little gift of Chilean Cuecas. I hope you listen to them again and again and that you take away some conclusions about our Cueca, as I have done through my trips to the countryside and my years collecting."

- Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning, 2017

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