FolkWorld Article by Walkin' T:-)M:

Nueva Canción - An Uncompromising Song

The Life and Death of Victor Jara

On September 11th 1973, Chilean singer-songwriter Victor Jara was arrested with the coup d'etat of General Pinochet underway. Jara was tortured and brutally murdered. As Dick Gaughan puts it, this is dedicated to those who say music and politics should not be mixed - tell that to the CIA and their thugs who murdered Jara because his repertoire didn't suit their interests.
You were there in Chile, 11 September 1973
Twenty eight years to the day - a dreadful irony
Victor Jara singing midst the tortured and the dead
White House glasses clinking as Allende's comrades bled
And you don't understand why those people are so angry
You don't understand why they don't go shopping too
Dismiss, exploit and bully then you wonder at their hate
(Attila the Stockbroker "Death of a Salesman" -> FW#26)

You can't have a revolution without songs. This banner, suspended over Salvadore Allende after his election as president of Chile, shows the influence that the New Song movement [nueva canción] had over the political process in Chile. All of the artists of New Song have several things in common. First, they possess a great love for the simple people, and a great respect for the culture, instruments and music of these people. Second, the artist works to better the conditions in the country. New Song has been used as a political weapon to attack injust governmental systems. New Song has the belief that songs can be used to aleviate problems in a country. Many times, the United States has sought to manipulate events in Latin America for their own benefit. In addition, the political aims of New Song artists have often been opposing governments under the influence of the United States. (
There came a new light with Allende, hero of the working man
A new hope spread throughout the land, a healthy wind was blowing
Chile, refuge of the free, the tyrants' tanks, they feared your dreams
They came and crashed you to your knees, your blood flowed like a river
Chile, you're far away, over the mountains and the sea
But we are with you all the way to freedom
(The Sands Family "Chile")

Victor Jara was born in Loquen, a small town outside of Santiago. His parents were rural farmers. His mother sang and played the guitar, and taught Victor many traditional folk songs. He had a great love for the hard working people of small towns and villages, and many of his songs celebrate the lives of these people. Also many of his songs attack injustices in society or political scandals. Victor Jara, along with other Chileans singers, gave concerts in favor of Salvador Allende and his political goals. The Popular Unity party had plans to increase education, and to supply increased housing and free socialized medical care. Allende was elected president. However, after a coup orchestrated by the Chilean right wing and the CIA, Allende was ousted. The military brought Victor Jara and other political prisoners to the Stadium of Chile. They broke Victor Jara's hands so that he couldn't play his guitar. Finally he was brutally killed with a machine gun. (
Victor Jara of Chile
Lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile
With his songs and his guitar
He grew up to be a fighter
Against the people's wrongs
He listened to their grief and joy
And turned them into songs
He campaigned for Allende, working night and day
He sang Take hold of your brothers hand, you know the future begins today
Then the generals seized Chile, they arrested Victor then
They caged him in a stadium with five-thousand frightened men
Victor stood in the stadium, his voice was brave and strong
And he sang for his fellow prisoners till the guards cut short his song
They broke the bones in both his hands, they beat him on the head
They tore him with electric shocks and then they shot him dead
(Adrian Mitchell/Arlo Guthrie "Victor Jara of Chile" -> FW#26)

With the death of Victor Jara, the music and power of New Song began to grow within Chile. This occured despite the attempts of the government to supress New Song music. The music of Victor Jara and other singers was confiscated and banned from radio play, and two important New Song groups in Chile, Quilapayun and Inti Illimani, were forced to remain in exile from their native country for many years. In 1990, there was a great celebration after the demise of an opressive dictatorship. The celebration, named Free Song in honor of Victor Jara, featured numerous groups playing traditional instruments and expressing the ideas of New Song. (
Happy birthday, General, I hope you like the card
I hope I got the right address and this gets past the guards
There's lots of Harrods chocolates from all your right wing friends
Card blanche from the Wall Street gang and old Ma Thatcher sends
Big slobbery kisses just for you, likewise the CIA do too
And the Pope says Hey, how's it hangin, Bro?
But of all the cards you open, I like this one best
It's simply signed The People, it's a warrant for your arrest
It shows each loved and loving face you tortured and murdered
I know we had to let you go on a technicality
Cause Heads of State can do what they like
And judges have no business being keen on human rights
Next time you have your sleepless night, you hear the silence say:
Happy birthday, General Pinochet!
(Robb Johnson "Happy Birthday General" -> FW#25)

Victor Jara's last poem was written in the boxing stadium where he was being tortured and eventually murdered. The scraps of paper where it was written on were smuggled out by those who survived. The song remains unfinished. The lyrics literally stop mid-sentence as he was led away to the changing rooms of the stadium and was shot repeatedly through the chest. Silence and screams are the end of my song, he wrote. His wife Joan Jara says that now Victor can rest in peace, knowing that his work has been carried on as he had asked in his last message. They could kill him, but they couldn't kill his songs, she says. (

The blood of companero Presidente is stronger than bombs, is stronger than machine guns.
O you song, you come out so badly when I must sing the terror!
What I see I never saw. What I have felt, and what I feel must come out!
"Hara brotar el momento! Hara brotar el momento!"
(Victor Jara "Estadio Chile" -> FW#26)

Victor Jara on the Web:,

See also Venceremos! CD review

The title An Uncompromising Song is borrowed from the Chile chapter of The Rough Guide to World Music, Vol. 2 (

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