Sosa, Mercedes (1935–)

views updated

Sosa, Mercedes (1935–)

Regarded as one of the foremost Latin American folksingers, Sosa was born in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, on July 9, 1935. She began her professional singing career when she was fourteen years old, first performing popular songs on a local radio station under the pseudonym Gladys Osorio. Although exposed early in life to a variety of Latin American popular music styles, she identified most with the folkloric music of her own country, learning to accompany herself on the bombo drum and teaching folkloric dance classes in Tucumán while still a teenager.

In 1957 she married the guitarist Manuel Oscar Matus and moved soon thereafter to Mendoza, where they became an integral part of the political and artistic circle that founded the nuevo cancionero, a folkloric musical movement promoting the rights and concerns of the poor. Sosa's fame grew substantially after her performance at the 1965 Folklore Festival in Cosquín, Argentina's most important such festival, and by the end of the decade she was touring and recording internationally to great acclaim. Two projects from the early 1970s, Cantata Sudamericana and Mujeres Argentinas, created with the composer Ariel Ramírez and the lyricist Félix Luna, are regarded as seminal works.

In the mid-1970s Sosa came under increased scrutiny by the Argentine government for her political views. In 1978, with the country under military rule, she and more than three hundred members of her audience were arrested at a concert in La Plata. Forced into exile in Spain the following year, she remained an outspoken opponent of the military regime until its demise in 1982. Upon her return to Argentina, Sosa began a new chapter in her musical career by collaborating with rock musicians, particularly Charly Garcia, whose rock nacional had constituted the most significant voice of musical resistance to the military government. Though never becoming a songwriter herself, Sosa has continued to broaden her repertoire over her long career, including many songs from other countries in Latin America and collaborations with other popular musicians.

Since the mid-1980s Sosa has continued to record and tour, arguably becoming Argentina's most famous and frequently honored musician. Her concert in New York's Carnegie Hall in 1987 ended with a ten-minute standing ovation. Though reportedly battling illness in the mid-1990s, she returned to a full touring and recording schedule in subsequent years, winning Latin Grammy Awards for Best Folk Album in 2000, 2003, and 2006. In addition to these works, many of her most important recordings are anthologized on the album 30 Años (Polygram, 1994).

See alsoMusic: Popular Music and Dance .


Bernstein, Jane. "Thanks for My Weapons in Battle: My Voice and the Desire to Use It." In Women's Voices across Musical Worlds, edited by Jane Bernstein. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2003.

Braceli, Rodolfo. Mercedes Sosa: La Negra. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2003.

Brizuela, Leopoldo. Cantar la vida: Reportajes a cinco cantantes argentinas: Gerónima Sequeida, Leda Valladares, Mercedes Sosa, Aimé Painé, Teresa Parodi. Buenos Aires: Libreria El Ateneo Editorial, 1992.

                                       Jonathan Ritter

More From