IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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Clandestine recordings: The use of the cassette in the music of the political resistance during the dictatorship (Chile, 1973-1989)
Laura Jordan Gonzalez

Last modified: 2013-01-22


A number of studies have examined the intense cultural activity of the political resistance during the Chilean dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1989), which included, as one of its most significant aspects, the creation and circulation of music among political dissidents. In this context, the cassette, as a phonographic device, acquired a special usage, becoming a fundamental instrument for the transfer and distribution of censured and clandestine music. Cassettes allowed auditors, for the first time, to choose and record their preferred songs at home, and to tape forbidden material. This made possible not only the circulation of political music, but also the establishment of a financial source for the clandestinised political organizations through the sale of pirated cassettes. This paper will examine three qualities inherent to the cassette that propelled it to this central role: the unfettered public access to blank cassettes, the malleability of the tape, and its surface opacity, in other words, its ability to hide subversive messages without revealing any exterior signs. Multiple genres of music took shelter in the copied cassette: censored examples of the Nueva Canción Chilena (“New Chilean Song”), recordings carried out in exile with the support of the international community, and other productions conceived in Chile by and for those operating in secrecy.

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