Nathalia Viccari has assembled the first collection focused on women in punk from across the continent
Nathalia Viccari ends the liner notes of her new compilation Sudamerica Existe (South America Exists) with the phrase “Punk Sem Fronteiras” (Punk without borders). As the expression suggests, the collection centers on bridging South American punk communities too often divided by imaginary borders, and whose musical histories are sometimes erased because of oppressive political structures and a lack of resources. Viccari further focused the compilation on the first bands in each country made up at least partly of women, making this the first compilation dedicated to the history of punk bands with women from across South America. She notes the challenge of bringing together a project that works against so much entrenched history, saying it was “very difficult to find any research focused on the beginnings of female involvement in punk in South America.”
Viccari herself is a Brazilian punk — now based in Argentina—who formerly played drums in RAKTA, a post-punk band from São Paulo. After moving to Buenos Aires and realizing she didn’t know many local bands, she was inspired to begin investigating groups from throughout the continent.
The compilation features 10 songs, one each from Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela. The recordings span from 1984 to 1998, giving us a view of the roots of the first female punk bands in each country. She says she hopes the compilation is, “the first of many,” and she, “urge[s] you punk neighbors to get in touch and get more compilations like this out there.”
I spoke with Viccari about visibility, obstacles on finding recordings from a time and place without many resources, and the and punk movement inside military dictatorships in South America.
DANIEL MOURA: How did you became involved with music and how was that process of moving from Brazil to Argentina?
NATHALIA VICCARI: Since I was a child I liked to go against the grain. When I was in the 8th grade a punk guy moved in to my school class in the middle of the year and that totally different aesthetic caught my attention immediately. With time I got into bands and going deeper into that universe, which only brought me good things until today. One of those things is my partner.
He went on tour with his Argentine band to Brazil and as we have many mutual friends, we had an good time. The rest is a love story. Basically, it is his “fault” I left São Paulo and went to Buenos Aires.
On the Sudamerica Existe Bandcamp page, you write about the series and Volume 1. Tell us a bit more about the general idea of the compilation.
Part of the idea is to create communication between the countries. Something like, some punk from Bolivia getting into Uruguay’s bands, etc. Also, to put South America on the map, to create more visibility so people from the outside can notice that we have something happening around here too.
Can you comment about the tracks and bands on the tape? Year of recording, country, historical context?
There were bands and countries that were very easy to research, like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru. But Bolivia almost made me give up on everything, it was almost impossible to find Bolivian bands. Not because they did not exist, they just never recorded because they did not have the resources. I understood that in Bolivia punk only arrived in the 90s, but it did not get as popular as gothic rock and heavy metal. Nowadays there are huge festivals of female metal there. Then the only band I could find was a post-punk one with recordings from almost 2000 called Autorev. But I also found a lot of female metal bands.
Chile was also very difficult. The dictatorship lasted until 1990, causing the first punk bands to appear much later. The band that I chose, Emociones Clandestinas, only included a woman in the recording of the demo from 1985–86, then they released an album in 1987 without the former singer Carmen Gloria Narváez. After she left they became icons of Chilean pop rock and one of the most successful bands in the country. How ironic. Countries like Paraguay and Ecuador — where females were backing vocals, guitar and bass players— made me expand the selection of bands, so I accepted female participation in the band in general, not just as a vocalist.
The most difficult thing was to find good audio quality from some bands, like the Uruguayan track from Polución Sonora that was taken from an already damaged tape.
You say before starting the compilation you did not know many bands in broader South America, and it’s apparent that you learned a lot personally. Is that something that has propelled you, in addition to the political motivation that exists in making this regional and gender incision within punk?
Of course, it all began as a personal research and when I started to have some difficulty finding one band or another, I felt the need to share it with the world. Aside from the fact that it is super easy to find “punk stories” in several South America countries, but rarely do those have even one chapter approaching female participation. So it was much harder than I imagined at first, because when I looked for old bands in such stories, the groups were almost 99 percent male formed.
What were the main means you used to do the research?
I have always used help from friends, and friends of friends, sometimes Google search using several different tags, but what really helped me was that network of friends.
Some bands only released demos or were featured in collections from those years. How obscure or popular were the groups in their countries?
All the bands were known by some friend of mine from the country of origin, but I do not know if they were very popular or if my friends are just some punk diggers. I don’t feel my research is complete yet. At the first moment it was made kind of in a hurry, because I was going to travel and wanted to have the material with me, but also the decision to publish something that is not completely finished was to be able to begin communication with people who know other bands or other stories. Deep inside I wait for that moment where someone tells me “This is not the first band with female participation,” and that there are other bands besides those that I put in the Volume 1, so we can have an update on it.
Still on the subject of female participation and South American punk: most of the bands from the compilation appear between the second half of the 80s and the early 90s. If we consider the late 70s as the beginning of the movement here, those are about ten years apart. Do you believe that the more evident participation of women in this period is related to a moment of a little more gender equality and freedom of speech, with, for example, the end of military dictatorships in South America?
Actually, I think that great part of punk was unknown because it was never recorded. The first great punk record in Brazil was released in 1982. We know much by word of mouth or records that few people had. I think there may have been bands with female participation before that and this is something I want to access. Perhaps after the dictatorships things got more evident and bands had more resources to record.
Are there plans for a second volume or new ideas on themes? What about releasing it in other formats besides the cassette?
With Volume 1 the goal is to go to a deeper research and then make that “update” with more bands per country and maybe even to release it on vinyl. For Volume 2, I started the research for queer bands from all over South America. Still no idea for Volume 3 but I know that at some point I will get it.
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