The following is an interview with Jedrek Mularski, author of Music, Politics, and Nationalism In Latin America: Chile During the Cold War Era:
Question: Why did you decide to write Music, Politics, and Nationalism in Latin America?
Jedrek Mularski: In addition to being a Latin American historian by profession, I have had a strong interest in music since I was very young. This research presented the opportunity for me to draw upon my background in both fields by examining the pivotal events of the Cold War era in Latin America through a musical lens.
Over the past few years, several fascinating new diplomatic and military histories have revealed that Cold War era conflicts in Latin America were multisided contests among various regional actors on the left and right of the political spectrum. However, these recent histories have not explored closely the question of whether this conceptualization of the Cold War era also applied to other areas of society. Seeking to deepen historical understanding of Latin America’s Cold War-era conflicts, I explored the music of the period. In doing so, I found a similarly complex web of local, national, and international actors who competed to shape popular culture and contributed significantly to the polarization of that time.
Question: How does your study relate to Chilean society and folk revival?
Jedrek Mularski: The story that this book traces has particular significance in Chilean society, where a right-wing military coup overthrew democratically elected, socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. Moreover, the history of Chilean folk-based music during the Cold War era is deeply intertwined both directly and indirectly with musical trends across and beyond Latin America. Folk revival movements outside of Chile played a significant role in shaping the course of folk revival within Chile. Subsequently, Chilean folk-based musicians played a central role in nurturing and advancing folk revivals both domestically and abroad. For those like myself who are interested in folk revival movements, I wanted to contribute to a broader understanding of folk revivals in Latin America and globally.
Question: What do you hope your readers take away from your book?
Jedrek Mularski: It is my hope that readers will take away from this book an awareness of the very important histories of folk-based musicians such as Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara, Inti-Illimani, and Los Huasos Quincheros, as well as of the music that these musicians produced. I hope that readers will develop a broader understanding of how these musicians and their songs both reflected and catalyzed larger economic, political, and cultural processes. This book places musical production in the context of wider efforts by both the left and the right to shape popular culture and identity as important components of their political agendas.
At the same time, this book is about more than musicians, songs, and political agendas. It seeks also to answer the question of how the public received particular styles of music and what impact music had on members of the populace. The integration of political history, musical analysis, and oral histories with individuals from diverse segments of Chilean society makes this history of Chilean music unique. I hope that the book will give readers a deeper sense of the excitement and fears that individuals felt during the Cold War era, along with a stronger appreciation for the role that music can play in fostering emotion and shaping political behavior.
Question: Your book dispels certain myths. Please provide an example.
Jedrek Mularski: One of the key contributions of this book is that it provides a vivid analysis of how music can reflect and shape political beliefs, emotions, and behavior. Although excellent historical studies on the relationships between music and politics exist, historians often overlook music as an avenue of political analysis. For example, this book disproves the popular myth that Chilean conservatives “had no culture”; it demonstrates that many conservatives had deep, emotional attachments to a particular style of folk-based music that was central to their sense of identity. I believe that there are many more such histories to be told about music’s role in shaping politics around the world. It is important that such histories be uncovered and analyzed if we are to arrive at a more complete understanding of how popular political behavior functions.
Music, Politics, and Nationalism in Latin America will be on display at the LASA congress next week.
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