Yupanqui, Atahualpa (1908–1992)

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Yupanqui, Atahualpa (1908–1992)

A seminal figure in the twentieth-century history of Argentine folk music, Atahualpa Yupanqui influenced generations of musicians, folklorists, and poets throughout the Americas and Europe. Born Héctor Roberto Chavero on January 31, 1908, in Pergamino, he adopted the Quechua pseudonym Atahualpa Yupanqui while still a youth, a reference to the last Inca ruler and a portent of his lifelong promotion of indigenous and working-class peoples and issues. He spent much of his early life traveling the rural areas of Argentina, learning and collecting the music of payadores (itinerant poets) and other folk music styles. Yupanqui's first song, "Caminito del Indio," written in 1926, introduced the evocative "Indianist" and protest themes as well as the difficult finger-picking guitar style that would define much of his later work. The politicized nature of his songwriting and his public affiliation with the Communist Party in the 1940s and early 1950s frequently put him at odds with the Argentine government, and he was arrested and briefly imprisoned on several occasions.

Yupanqui's international career was launched after a tour of Eastern bloc countries in 1949–1950, when he was introduced to Edith Piaf in Paris, who in turn promoted and performed with him in a number of Left Bank clubs. He was invited to record his first LP, Minero Soy (I Am a Miner), for the Chant du Monde label in 1950, which was awarded the gran prix for best folklore disk given by the Academia Charles Cros, the first of many such prizes he would garner in his long career. Though popular in his home country and a revered figure in the emergent nueva canción movement throughout South America in the 1960s, Yupanqui moved his permanent residence to Paris in 1967 due to ongoing problems with the military regime in Argentina. He continued to tour and perform internationally until his death on May 23, 1992, and he remains a popular and influential figure in France and much of Latin America in the early twenty-first century. An excellent retrospective of his work is contained on 30 Ans de Chansons (Chant du Monde, 1996).

See alsoMusic: Popular Music and Dance; Payador.


Primary Works

El canto del viento. Buenos Aires: Honegger, 1965.

El payador perseguido. Buenos Aires: Companía General Fabril Editora, 1972.

Secondary Works

Boasso, Fernando. Tierra que anda: Atahualpa Yupanqui, historia de un trovador. Buenos Aires: Corrigedor, 2006.

Luna, Félix. Atahualpa Yupanqui. Madrid: Ediciones Júcar, 1974.

                                   Jonathan Ritter