Anyone would agree that Chilean musicians have had their fair share of woe. In the late '90s, the barely recovering post-dictatorship industry had to cope with the abrupt and almost total abandonment of their music by multinational record labels. The Chilean music industry reacted by reincarnating itself into a mostly independent scene, with independent labels practically appearing under every stone.
While this patchwork industry has proved conducive to creating a diverse and relatively dynamic musical scene on a national level, it is also one that--with the minor exception of bands like La Ley, Los Bunkers and Los Tres--has had trouble being heard outside of Chile.
Over the past six or so years and largely unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Santiago has been an insular nest of parameter-pushing musical efforts, which mix--with infinite and unpredictable variation--pop, electronica, hip hop, traditional folkloric music, rock and punk. What many of these bands share is the do-it-yourself element of the independent and experimental; musical efforts that if forced into a genre would be the unwieldy, “Folknoisepostrockelectroacústicopop.” The music is new, experimental and there's a little something for everyone.
To name but a few of these musical mavericks: Gepe singing tender Violeta Parra covers, Namm’s coy and playful electronica, low-fi musical folklore from Aves de Chile, all with the netlabel Jacobino Discos. Infanta Terrible, another indie label, has nature-inspired triphop and electronic boleros from Muza, multi-instrumentalist Bombyx Mori and Antonio Restucci, a mandolin player considered one of the first to add jazz, flamenco and Brazilian elements to traditional Chilean music. These bands produce their music within a heroically precarious and very local sphere of recognition.
But one independent label is looking beyond Chile’s borders. Infanta Terrible is, as of May of this year, the only independent Chilean music label looking to represent Chilean bands abroad. By the end of 2008, Muza and Bombyx Mori will play in Spain, and the Spanish act Nacho Vegas will come to play in Chile for the first time. “I want to help create collaborative alliances between independent labels in both countries,” says Marcela Quezada, creator of the label.
Like many, Quezada considers Chilean music to have been left in the lurch by history and the abandonment of multinational record labels, and believes that the health and future of the Chilean music industry now depend on collaboration between the independent labels which compose it. A vision that Quezada sums up with that slogan resonates from an earlier time: “La union es la fuerza.”