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An Introduction: La Nueva Canción or El Nuevo Canto 
(The New Song)

La Nueva Canción  or El Nuevo Canto (Spanish for 'new song') is a movement in Latin American music that was developed first in the countries of South America, especially Chile , during the 1950s and 1960s, but also popularized shortly after in Mexico and Central America. It combined traditional Latin American folk music idioms and some had popular rock music, with progressive and often politicized lyrics. It  gained great popularity throughout Latin America.  La Nueva Canción movement was a folk music revival characterized by social aims often connected to left-wing politics, nationalistic, or progressive  movements of self-determination and anti-imperialism. Several Nueva Canción musicians had to go into exile when their countries became right-wing military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s.

Prominent Nueva Canción musicians faced different and difficult fortunes during military dictatorships. Víctor Jara was killed by the Chilean military of General Augosto Pinochet when the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown with assistance by Henry Kissinger and the U.S. CIA in September 1973.  The Chilean musical ensembles Inti-Illimani and Quilapayun also went into exile, the former in Italy and the latter in France .   Mercedes Sosa from Argentina went into exile in Spain, while Silvio Rodríguez from Cuba wrote Canción urgente para Nicaragua after the Sandinista Revolution in 1979.

Víctor Jara (above photo) is one of the most emblematic of the Nueva Canción musicians. He was murdered following the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat and his music was outlawed.  Even some of the folk instruments, like the quena (Indian flute) and the charango (stringed instrument often  made from the armadillo shell)  that were played in his music were banned.

Due to La Nueva Canción songs' strong political messages, some of them have been used in recent political campaigns as such Violeta Parra's Gracias a la vida which was used in the Orange Revolution. La Nueva Canción has became part of the Latin American and Iberian musical movement for freedom, liberty, equality, and social justice.

A list of countries where La Nueva Cancion took root and flowered during this period.

Characteristics of La Nueva Cancion

"La Nueva Canción" also known as the "New Song Movement" or "Trova" is a type of protest/social song. Its lyrics characteristically talk about poverty, empowerment, the Unidad Popular, imperialism, democracy, human rights, and religion. There are some hundreds of songs with influences from British and American pop rock that were popular with college youths.

La Nueva Canción largely draws upon Andean music, Música negra, Mexican folk music, Spanish music, Cuban music and other Latin American folklore. An  important source for La Nueva Canción, is the Chilean cueca, a rural song-form.

The '73 Chilean coup affected the genre's growth in Chile , the country where it was the most popular, because the whole musical movement was forced to go underground. During the days of the coup, Víctor Jara, a well known singer, songwriter and maybe the most popular figure of Nueva Canción, was tortured and killed by the new rightist military regime under General Augusto Pinochet. Other groups, such as Inti-Illimani and Quilapayún, found safety outside the country. The military government under General Pinochet ruled until 1989 and went as far as to ban many traditional Andean instruments, in order to suppress the Nueva Canción movement. Following the deposition of Pinochet, the Estadio Chile in Santiago de Chile where Víctor Jara was murdered bears his name.

Most songs feature the guitar, and often the quena, zampoña, charango or cajón. The lyrics are typically in Spanish, with some indigenous or local words mixed in.

While Chile has produced the largest number of Nueva Canción artists, its popularity has been great in almost all Spanish speaking Latin American countries, and it enjoyed some popularity in Spain during the 1970s, where it was initially fueled by the political oppression of the Franquist regime.  A well-known Spanish group was Agua Viva.

Musicians & Groups


Brazil - Tropicalismo and Música Popular Brasileira

Canary Islands




El Salvador



Paraguay - Nuevo Cancionero

Puerto Rico



Cuba - Nueva Trova


México - Canto Nuevo

Catalunya - Nova Cançó

United States - Nueva Canción

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