Protest Song: The Music Of The Revolution

Since distant times, the protest movements of social causes have been among their weapons music. War, racism, inequality, authoritarianism and Government corruption are some of the issues that have inspired the song protest until today. Silvio Rodríguez, one of the greatest exponents of the genre, defines the Troubadour as “a poet with a guitar”.


It is a kind of poetic and musical creation that appeared connected with movements of the left, with clear ideological objectives. It is a genre that aims to raise awareness, especially in the middle class and workers, to generate a radical change of the socio-economic structures. Most of these songs have been written by intellectuals and artists of middle class, many of them University. The protest song takes as a basis the traditional and popular folklore of each country and transforms it into a means to denounce social injustice and political conformity.


Already in the middle ages there was the figure of the singer or Troubadour singing against social injustice, with lyrics that spoke the same language as the people or the absolute monarchies. However, one can say that the protest song, as it is known today, was born in United States during the 1930s, as echoed in Spain during the time of the Civil War, where he sang against the Franco regime. In the 1960s and 1970s it had its time of maximum expression, especially in the United States, France, Spain and Latin America, places in which social processes such as the Cuban revolution were happening and where arose artists who opposed dictatorial regimes and the impositions of the system in different countries. The genre was deployed mainly in South America, but has been cultivated in entire South America and Central America.

The Iberian wave:

In Spain, the song protest movement was linked to anti-Franco activism, the denunciation of the situation of the most disadvantaged groups, the popular cultural claim and rescue artists banned by Franco’sregime. Its predecessors, since the end of the fifties and early sixties, are Chicho Sánchez Ferlosio, Paco Ibáñez, Raimon, Carlos Cano, Elisa Serna, Mikel Laboa, Imanoly Labordeta, Lluís Llach, Pi de la Serra, Paco Ibáñez, Joan Manuel Serrat, Victor Manuel and Ana Belén. In some cases they gathered in collective movements, such as Els Setze Jutges in Catalonia, Ez Dok Amairu in Basque country or Southern Song manifesto in Andalusia. Include groups such as games combined, Los Sabandeños and Nuevo Mester de Juglaría.

In the Decade of the seventies, after Franco’s dictatorship, are also authors of satirical song as Pi de la Serra, Javier Krahe or groups as from Santurce to Bilbao, Blues Band and La Trinca.

In the 1990s, the figure of the singer-songwriter was becoming more underground and independent. The new names of the protest song found in Albert Pla, Javier Álvarez, Ismael Serrano, Pedro Guerra and Nacho Vegas. Started the twenty-first century, hip-hop is shown as the eternal youth protest.

In Latin America:

The 1960s, 1970s and 1980s would be the greatest protest song boom, then known as the new Latin American song. The genus has been linked to political struggles and many of its representatives were censored in their countries by Governments.

Argentina has a considerable presence with such well-known songwriters such as Horacio Guaraní, Facundo Cabral, Alberto Cortez, Nacha Guevara, León Gieco, Víctor Heredia, Manuel Monestel, Ignacio Copani and Atahualpa Yupanqui. The singer Mercedes Sosa “the black” became Ambassador song protest in this country around the world, what did the gender in a universal phenomenon.

Uruguay highlighted artists as Alfredo Zitarrosa, Daniel Viglietti, Anibal Sampayo, Tabaré Etcheverry, Numa Moraes, Los Olimareños, the Nos and Pablo Estramín.

Chile emerged in the new Chilean song movement, Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, Isabel Parra, Ángel Parra, Inti Illimani, Quilapayún, Sun and rain, among others. all these artists contributed to the process of election of the Socialist candidate Salvador Allende in 1970, as well as in the development of their government programs.

The Venezuelan Alí first exemplifies classic protest singer-songwriter, Member of the Communist Party in his country, interested in a political program of the left, reason why their albums were censored in several countries. Soledad Bravo is another representative of the new Venezuelan song that has had considerable international exposure.

Carlos Mejia Godoy will do the same with the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.

In the Decade of the seventies, the protest song had a very important role in Puerto Rico, because it was linked to groups and parties that favoured the independence of this country of the United States. One of the forerunners is Noel Hernández with guerrilla guerrilla and five brothers prisoners.

In Cuba the song protest became known as the Nueva Trova Cubana, represented by Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés and Carlos Puebla. Despite appearing to 66, was called Nueva Trova Cubana because it came from the Trova Cubana which was already popular since many decades ago. Protestor, political or social content themes, constitute the main message of this new way of trovar. Other troubadours who have attained international fame are Sara González, Vicente Feliú and Amauri Pérez.

The evolution of the protest song:

In the 1980s appeared in Latin America the Chilean band Los Prisioneros, whose songs would become an obligatory reference anti-dictatoriales movements. From the nineties bands like Los Tres, Molotov, Manu Chao, and Mano Negra became representatives of new generations, denouncing the dissatisfaction with the system and provisions. In the 2000s, bands appear as Calle 13, of Puerto Rico, with lyrics with content of complaint and protest, as well as other artists such as the Spanish baby, revealing abuse against women and stereotyping and gender in Colombia Los Aterciopelados, sing to the environment and aspire to a better world.

Today Latin American music remains an important means to exercise social activism. We can see how artists such as Juanes, who in addition landmines; leads the Mi Sangre Foundation, in favor of the victims of mines Shakira and her Pies Descalzos Foundation: Julieta Venegas, who was appointed Cultural Ambassador of goodwill; Ricky Martin and his Foundation, the Warriors of light; Cafe Tacuba and the struggle for the defense of the environment. Artists like Juan Luis Guerra and Rubén Blades are still composing songs of social protest and anti-establishment messages, using their music to send a message to the world.

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