Between Rifles and Accordions – Music from the FARC

Originally posted on Sounds and Colours, you can read the full article here.

Whilst homemade music videos produced by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have been circulating around forums and YouTube for some years, there has been very little effort to systematically collect and analyze the wealth of music produced by the group.

Rafael Quishpe is a political scientist and researcher at Rosario University in Bogotá, Colombia. I caught up with him about a project he recently conducted to fill this gap, collating and analyzing music produced by the FARC between 1988-2018. His project, Entre fusiles y acordeones: base de datos de la música de las FARC-EP (1988-2018), identified some 700 songs, but with many CDs in limited pressings and some works still not digitalized, he believes the true number to be well over a thousand.

His findings suggest music played a complex role in the organization, from fortifying ideological cohesion to motivating combatants. Through the ‘Culture Hour’, a compulsory hour of music, reading and dance, it also created important shared social experiences. With the state absent from providing even basic services in large parts of the country, FARC musicians were able to flourish as one of the principal cultural offerings.

Their music, therefore, displays a spectrum of styles, as FARC productions would mirror in rhythms and instrumentation popular regional styles as to ingratiate themselves within communities: vallenato in the north, llanera in Los Llanos. Lyrically, they describe episodes of the conflict, the organization’s core beliefs and their thoughts on the 2016 peace process.

Strikingly, Rafael grouped together students, professors and ex-FARC members to transcribe the songs and use their content as discussion starters for their respective experiences of the conflict. The lyrics, and accompanying artwork, can be found on their website.

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