MLAL Research Seminar Series
Wednesday 12 October
The trajectory of protest song from dictatorship to democracy: the Catalan Nova Canҁó.
Protest against the Franco dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975) was, during its latter years, characterized in Catalonia by a musical backdrop of the nova canço, literally ‘new song’ (see e.g. Borrull 2014). It is generally recognized (ibid.) that one of the most prominent figures in this movement was the singer-songwriter Lluís Llach (born 1948), the author of the work which is the focus of this paper.
As vocal opposition to Franco’s authoritarian government mounted inexorably from the mid-1960s onwards, Llach’s song L’Estaca (literally ‘the stake’), released in 1968, quickly became a key cultural rallying point for many Catalans determined to ensure that the regime would not outlive its founder. The song’s relatively generic call to action against tyranny has resulted in enduring popularity in Catalonia and internationally (it was, for example, adopted as an anthem by the Polish Solidarność movement). Building on my previous work on the relative decline in popularity of the nova canço for a period after the return to democracy in Spain in the late 1970s, in this paper I explore the genre in the present climate in Catalonia, in which the current level of protest against the Spanish state has reached levels unprecedented for four decades. The relation between song and social movements is investigated from a postcolonial perspective, drawing on examples such as an attempt this year (2014) by a mayor from the Spanish governing party to ban a performance in Catalonia of the very same song, L’Estaca, resulting in the audience singing it a cappella.