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    Land of winds > Music > History | Issue 10 (May.-Jun.2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Mapuche music in Chile and Argentina


Music of the Mapuche communities in Chile and Argentina

The first Spanish chroniclers who arrived in Chilean territory following the conqueror Pedro de Valdivia set down to describe some of the musical practices of those peoples generally referred to as "Araucanian". Alonso de Ercilla ("La Araucana", 1569), Pedro Mariño de Lobera ("Crónica del Reino de Chile", 1550-1560) and Alonso de Góngora Marmolejo ("Historia de Chile desde su descubrimiento hasta el año de 1575") reported superficially on some aspects of the "bocinas" (horns), "pitos" (whistles) and "timbales" (kettledrums) used by the Mapuche in Chile, while their peers on the other side of the Cordillera would describe the instruments played by the Argentinean Mapuche almost three centuries later.

Mapuche music in pre-Hispanic and colonial times is not that different from present-day, at least in its most traditional sense. The ülkantun chant (and its sacred variant, the tayïl, usually heard during the ceremony known as ngillatun), percussion instruments (kultrun, caquekultrun, kaskawilla), wind instruments (trutruka, ñolkiñ, pifilka, pinkullwe, piloilo) and string instruments (trompe) continue to be the core of the Mapuche sounding folklore, both in Chile and Argentina.


Article. "Instrumentos musicales", in Museo Mapuche Pucón [es].
Article. "Música Mapuche", in Identidad Lafkenche [es].
Thesis. "La Música Mapuche: Una mirada a los procesos subyacentes que se generan a partir de su uso y práctica cotidiana en diferentes contextos socioculturales", by Ramón Cayumil Calfiqueo. In PROEIB Andes [es].


Video 01. Documentary series "La primera música" (The first music). Chapter 01: Huilliche music [es].
Video 02. Documentary series "La primera música". Chapter 03: Lafkenche music [es].
Video 03. Documentary series "La primera música". Chapter 05: Pewenche music [es].


From 1950, the Mapuche music had started sounding on the radio and being disseminated through LPs and cassettes. Through the following four decades, numerous artistic figures on both sides of the Andes Mountains saw to collect and spread the so-called "Araucanian" musical traditions. We can mention, among many other key names, Aimé Painé, Sofía Painaqueo and the group Aflaiai, José Railef Calfin, Caupolican Huenulaf, Lautaro Manquilef, the Nolmen duet, Cecil González and Juan Ñanculef. Both in Argentina and Chile, following the "Nueva Canción" (New Song) movement of the 1960s and 1970s, many musicians and bands added Mapuche sounds to their musical repertoires (e.g. Inti-Illimani, Illapu, Quilapayún).


Video 04. "Canto Kalfulikan", by Dúo Nolmen.
Video 05. Cecil González's "Tejiendo está la manque", by Leticia Valencia and Canta Arauco group from Temuco.


Music of the Mapuche communities in Chile and Argentina

Nowadays, there are a number of artistic initiatives running, which aim to promote Mapuche music, though, in many cases, this music has been adapted for a contemporary mass-audience. Those initiatives comprise the works Nancy San Martín and her band; Karen Wenul; Fabio Inalef, Rayén, María Lara Millapán and Carlos Carrilaf; the group Araucanto de Temuco; Luisa Calcumil, Beatriz Pichi Malén, Elena Catripán, Elisa Avendaño and Antu Liwen... Likewise, there are a lot of folkloric ensembles which include Mapuche lyrics, instruments and so-called "rhythms" and "musical styles" in their repertoires.

On the other hand, it is worth mentioning the efforts of many who still remain faithful to the most ancient musical traditions, such as the ülkantufe (singer) Joel Maripil, singer-songwriter Estela Astorga or the musician and luthier Armando Marileo, all of them of Lafkenche (Chile) ancestry.


Video 06. "Pichiche Ulkantun", by Nancy San Martín.
Video 07. Karen Wenul.
Video 08. Fabio Inalef, María Lara Millapán and Carlos Carrilaf (low quality).
Video 09. "Somos gente de la tierra", by Grupo Araucanto.
Video 10. Elena Catripán.
Video 11. Elisa Avendaño.
Video 12. Antu Liwen.
Video 13. "Mari mari", by Joel Maripil.
Video 14. Estela Astorga.
Video 15. Armando Marileo.


The engagement of urban indigenous youth has paved the way for Mapuche traditional sounds and the singing in Mapudungu to be blended with contemporary musical currents such as rock, pop, reggae, cumbia or rap/hip-hop. In Chile, Mapuche rock finds its voice in such groups like Pirulonko (one of the first bands to play it since 1996), Pewmayen, Tierra Oscura, Horeja and Pu Kutri Ñuke. We Liwen is known for their delicate compositions while Wekecheke ñi Trawün, Wenu Mapu, SubVerso, Kolectivo Wenewen, Jano Weichafe and McToqui explore creative avenues within rap music. In Argentina, Rubén Patagonia’s work is a good example of contemporary Mapuche singing, though his protest lyrics do not portray as much courage and conviction as his Chilean peers’ do. Finally, we can mention the experiments by such groups as Kunva and Puel Kona.


Article. "Música Mapuche actual: Recuperación cultural, resistencia, identidad", by Ernesto Sepúlveda Montiel. Working Paper Series 38. In Ñuke Mapu [es].
Article. "Los grupos que lideran la arremetida del rock Mapuche en la escena musical", in Metiendo Ruido [es].
Article. "Los hits de la Música Mapuche", in Centro de Documentación Mapuche [es].
Article. "Artistas simpatizantes con la causa Mapuche", in Enlace Mapuche Internacional [es].


Video 16. "Meli meli", by Pirulonko.
Video 17. "Kimun mapu mew", by Pewmayen.
Video 18. "Nación Mapuche", by Tierra Oscura.
Video 19. "El guillatún", by Horeja.
Video 20. "Alex lemun weichafe", by Pu Kutri Ñuke.
Video 21. "Winka kai kai", by We Liwen.
Video 22. "Rap", by Wenu Mapu.
Video 23. "Rap", by McToqui.
Video 24. "Cutral Co", by Rubén Patagonia.
Video 25. "Kalfu Mapu", by Kunva.


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