“Los de Chacabuco”, a group created and directed by Ángel Parra. Chacabuco concentration camp
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.
The repressive system also 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 testimonies of musical experiences in political detention and torture centres in Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship, from clandestine chambers and concentration camps to police stations and jails.
Praised as an “extraordinary digital archive” by Alex Ross (critic of The New Yorker), our project seeks to contribute to the historical memory of the dictatorship and to debates on human rights in other historical and geographical contexts.
Developed initially in collaboration with the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Santiago, Chile), the project was conceptualised by Katia Chornik as part of her post-doctorate at the University of Manchester in 2013-16.
Our archive was included in the British Museum’s I Object exhibition (2018-19), which explores ways in which human beings have subverted concepts of authority for over three millennia.
To collect materials the Cantos Cautivos project combines online crowdsourcing and edited transcriptions of oral testimonies obtained via interviews and events.
The ideas expressed in the exhibited materials are the responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the project team.
Cantos Cautivos is a not-for-profit project and adheres to the ethics statements of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology.
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, Felipe Farías Pereira, Aitor Fernández, Laura Jordán, Julio Laks, Ernesto Parra, Thomas Schmidt and Marcos Stuardo.
To see the testimonies in the project, please click here.
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)