For many prisoners in centres for political detention and torture in Chile between 1973 and 1990, to write, play or listen to music were ways to register, process, remember, forget or transcend difficult experiences. Music helped them to maintain a sense of normality, it was a tool to preserve dignity and hope, to have fun and communicate with other inmates and with the outside world. On the other hand, jailers employed music as a form of domination and indoctrination, and in connection with torture and other types of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Cantos Cautivos (Captive Songs) is a digital archive that compiles memories of individual and collective musical experiences in centres for political detention and torture in Chile under Pinochet. This participatory initiative seeks to contribute to the historical memory of the dictatorship and to ongoing debates and research on human rights violations in other historical and geographical contexts.

You may cite material from the Cantos Cautivos archive but you must credit it by including the name of our project and its URL. Any third-person use of testimonies aimed at publication or public dissemination requires the authorisation of the Cantos Cautivos team.

This is a not-for-profit project. Conceptualised by Katia Chornik, at its inception it was developed in collaboration with the Chilean Museum of Memory and Human Rights, as part of her research ‘Sounds of Memory: Music and Political Captivity in Pinochet’s Chile’, hosted by the University of Manchester in 2013-16 and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The project has also received funding from Chile’s Fondo de Fomento de la Música Nacional del Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes (CNCA). This research adheres to the ethics statements of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology.

The project is endorsed by the Association of Chilean Former Political Prisoners in the UK, the Association d’ex Prisonniers Politiques Chiliens-France, the Chair in Human Rights of the Pro-Vice-Chancellorship for Engagement and Communications at the University of Chile, Ciudad Elefante, Colectivo Mujeres Sobrevivientes Siempre Resistentes, Corporación Memoria Campo de Prisioneros Políticos de Chacabuco, Corporación Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi, Ex Presos Políticos en el Extranjero, Fundación Víctor Jara, Historical Memory Project (CUNY), and Music Action International.

We are grateful to those who have shared their stories, and to the following volunteers: Nayive Ananías, Sergio Araya, Miguel Ángel Bravo, Luis Cifuentes, Rodrigo Cifuentes, Marcelo Coulon, Pascal Coulon, Aitor Fernández, Laura Jordán, Julio Laks, Ernesto Parra and Thomas Schmidt.


Dr Katia Chornik, director and editor

Núria Bonet, co-editor

Héctor Muñoz Cantos, researcher

Marcos Stuardo, social media

Hernán Theiler, software engineer



Prof Caroline Bithell (University of Manchester)

Prof Suzanne Cusick (New York University)

Daniel Díaz Vera (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile / University of Manchester)

Dr Rosalía Martínez (Université Paris 8 / Centre de Recherches en Ethnomusicologie)

Dr J. Patrice McSherry (Long Island University / Universidad de Santiago)

Ed Vulliamy (The Observer / The Guardian)