On the west coast of South America, Chile occupies a strip of land that extends 2,653 miles from north to south. This elongated country measures 221 miles at its widest point and just 40 miles at its thinnest. This unique geography has produced a rich variety of cultural phenomenon including vibrant music and dance traditions.
Pre-Colombian Chilean musical traditions come from the Mapuche people. Their music is mainly religious in nature and is performed with traditional instruments such as the cultrún, cascahuillas, the trutruca, and the torompe. Together with these instruments, some indigenous dances with ritualistic origins have also been preserved such as the lepún, the machitún, and the nauillatún.
The folkloric music of Chile is mainly based around the cueca. This dance was designated as a national dance of Chile in 1979 and the different versions vary depending on the latitude, which is unsurprising considering the length of the country. The influence of the Andes in the north of the country and the presence of the military bands which Spaniards brought to the region are reflected by the use of the zampoña, the quena, the charango, the guitar, and instruments of military origin such as the bass drum, trumpets, and tubas.
These instruments accompany dances such as the cueca, the bailes chinos, and the huaynos. In Chile’s central region, instruments such as the accordion are played, which were introduced by the numerous immigrants who arrived from Germany. The guitar, the caja, and the tormento are instruments used to accompany the dances of the central region like the sajuriana (originally an Argentine dance), the refalosa (from Peru), and the sombrerito.
In the south of Chile and especially in the Chiloé Islands, Spanish and huilliche traditions mixed to produce the paricona dance, a variety of the Spanish pericón. When speaking about the music of Chile, several internationally known folk singers from the “Nueva Canción Chilena” (new Chilean song) movement must be mentioned, such as Violeta Parra and Victor Jara.