Ahoy, Nightrider here!

In this edition of Underground, let’s look into the music of one of Chile’s celebrated musicians known to the world: Victor Jara.

As mentioned before in the review of the documentary from Netflix’s Massacre at the Stadium, Victor Jara was a celebrated musician whose songs about love and social justice permeate through time. Jara was also a major social activist, composing songs that helped identify the social issues that plagued the populace. He was brutally murdered on 16 September after the Chilean Coup on 11 September 1973, where at one point he was asked by the Chilean soldiers to play his guitar after having his hands smashed and broken.

So why was his music hated by conservative Chileans but beloved by the world after his tragic murder?

As a folk singer and protest singer, Jara wrote and sang songs that illustrate how the common man suffers at the hands of the richer class. But he also sang songs about how the suffering people should stand up with pride and take down the prejudice and its system. Here are a few songs that illustrate this:

  • Así Como Hoy Matan Negros illustrates the killings of minorities at the hands of Anglo-Americans and that this still continues. This song was written by Sergio Ortega and Pablo Neruda about famed Mexican Robin Hood Juaquin Murrieta.
  • El Derecho de Vivir en Paz is an anti-war song about the Vietnam War. Jara advocates Ho Chi Mihn’s poetry of peace while condemning the actions of the U.S. This is a well-known song today.
  • A la Molina No Voy Mas is a popular song from Peru that describes how the Afro-Peruvian community suffers from social injustice and poverty. Jara sings this song in the style of the Afro-Peruvian community.
  • Plegaria a un Labrador talks about the poor and unjust working conditions of the common worker; a call to arms is made to combat the misery.
  • Manifesto was one of Jara’s last composed songs from his unfinished ninth album Tiempos Que Cambian recorded in 1973. The album is unfinished because of the Chilean Coup and Jara’s murder soon after. Manifesto is a song that encourages socialism. It also has lyrics that speak the truth about those willing to risk their lives by telling the truth.
  • Te Recuerdo Amanda is Victor Jara’s most famous song. Beautifully composed by just his guitar, Jara sings the story about a girl named Amanda who works in a factory where she meets and loses her lover Manuel; both instances last only five minutes.
  • Preguntas por Puerto Montt is about the Massacre in Puerto Montt on 9 March 1969. Jara sings that the fault lies with the Minister of the Interior Edmundo Perez Zujovic; Zujovic was assassinated shortly after while Jara was beaten by conservative thugs.

Victor’s wife, Joan Jara, was able to get his music out of Chile before more damage was done. Jara’s legacy is honored by bands and musicians like The Clash, Barnstormer, U2, Rod MacDonald, Pelle Miljoona and The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band doing a cover of “Manifesto.”