Sweet Sounds of the Struggle: Evelyn Cornejo

In the mainstream Chilean pop scene of international marketing tactics that lack a presence of chilenidad (chilean identity), Evelyn Cornejo steps outside of the genre's norm. Her musical talent and aesthetic magnetism comes not from elaborate musical arrangements but from the authenticity of her messages and the hauntingly sad yet sweetly warm tones of her unique voice. She denounces capitalism, consumerism, and the inequality and environmental destruction it brings to our cultures.

In Parque Forestal
In Parque Forestal

She stands strongly by indigenous communities and campesino, manual labor workers in rural areas of Chile, to support their struggles in her songs. In "La Huelga" (The Strike) she relates to the lives of everyday workers and poverty in the pueblos: "Las baratas vidas obreras/Son sólo barata mercancía" (The cheap workers' lives are only cheap goods). Many of her songs speak of human rights issues in the modern world system and its misplaced priorities.

This charming, shy performer of soothing guitar strums and a bold, beautiful voice inspires many people in the crowd to sing along to her songs. Some hands are thrown up in the air with the word "Resiste" (Resist) as "Alerta"s verse comes along: "Resiste, africano, resiste/Resiste, América, resiste/Resiste, Irak, resiste/Resiste, mapuche, resiste." She connects struggles of all marginalized populations and creates one common dream of equality and freedom.

Evelyn Cornejo was born in a pueblo called Calibro in the Maule region of Chile and has since lived in many different locations such as Caliboro, San Valentín, San Javier, Maule, Santiago, and Valparaíso. A lot of her personal musical influence came from her family, her hometown Evangelical church, and her environment growing up, where she learned to play various folkloric instruments.

Her professional influences vary through genres such as hip-hop artist Con$pirazión and rock band Los Prisioneros. Many come from La Nueva Canción artists such as Violeta Parra and Inti Illimani. Violeta Parra is a vital inspiration for Cornejo and a cover of Parra's "Verso para la niña muerta" appears in her new album called Evelyn Cornejo.

Her first album came out in 2008 which was made with Chilean hip-hop rapper SubVerso, a musical activist also known for calling political critique and social issues into his songs. She continues to record with SubVerso. The latest disc was made in 2011 which contains "Los Ratones," "Alerta," "País de Cobre," "América si," "La gallina y el león," and "Sólo tu."

"Sólo tu" has a personal significance and is dedicated to her daughter Melba born in 2003. It also has references to Celco, a large corporation in Chile and Argentina which manufactures cellulose and derivatives such as sawn timber: "Mañana iremos a Curicó/Iremos a disfrutar del sol/Se me ha olvidado ese detallito/Que la Celco invadió al mataquito" [Tomorrow we'll go to Curico/We'll enjoy the sun/I have forgotten that detail/That la Celco invaded (the river) Mataquito]. The lyrics integrate her personal experiences with negative impacts of environmental destruction for monetary gain.

Her powerful lyrics, charming melodies, and joyous smile remind us activism and political struggle in this country is relevant in all cultural and expressive outlets. She utilizes her music, personality, and emotions to form a relevant connection, raise awareness, and emphasize the brutal realities of current political and social issues.

Check out her facebook pages for local upcoming shows:

Evelyn Cornejo
Evelyn Cornejo II


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