About the Project

“Los de Chacabuco”, a group created and directed by Ángel Parra. Chacabuco concentration camp

Cantos Cautivos (Captive Songs) is a digital platform that compiles testimonies of musical experiences in political detention centres in Chile under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), from torture houses 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.

The platform has 161 testimonies, of which 38 refer to music pieces fully created by political prisoners and 14 refer to music pieces with lyrics created or modified in detention over pre-existing music. To see the testimonies, click here.

Materials from our project formed part of the British Museum’s I Object, Ian Hislop's search for dissent exhibition (2018-19), which explored ways in which human beings have subverted concepts of authority for over three millennia.

To collect materials, we combine 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.

The Cantos Cautivos project is a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. 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 people: Lucía Amaya, Nayive Ananías, Sergio Araya, Miguel Ángel Bravo, Luis Cifuentes, Rodrigo Cifuentes, Marcelo Coulon, Pascal Coulon, Felipe Farías Pereira, Aitor Fernández, Laura Jordán, Julio Laks, Rosa Marks, Héctor Muñoz Cantos, Ernesto Parra, Thomas Schmidt and Marcos Stuardo.


Dr Katia Chornik, general editor
Hernán Theiler, software engineer
Dr Jesse Freedman, sub-editor
Dr Núria Bonet, sub-editor
Roberto Riveros, documentary maker
Lisandro Concatti, social media

Advisory Board

Enrique Azúa (formely National Human Rights Institute, Chile)
Dr Aquiles Brayner (Federal District Government, Brazil)
Prof Caroline Bithell (University of Manchester)
Prof Suzanne Cusick (New York University)
Dr Daniel Díaz Vera (Adolfo Ibáñez University)
Tom Hockenhull (British Museum)
Dr Rosalía Martínez (Paris 8 University)
Dr Alicia Salomone (University of Chile)
Ed Vulliamy (formerly The Guardian and The Observer)

This project has received funding from: