JUNE 2022

Ercilia Moreno Chá, Argentina

"The payada: an improvised oral poetic duel in Latin American contexts"

17 June 2022, at 5 p.m. CEST

Speaker's Biography:

ERCILIA MORENO CHÁ. Argentine ethnomusicologist. She was a researcher at the Universidad de Chile (University of Chile) and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano
(National Institute of Anthropology and Latin American Thought ) of Argentina. She served as Director of the Argentine Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega” (National Institute of Musicology “Carlos Vega”) and she collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution and the UNESCO, as advisor for Latin American traditions. Author of books and articles dealing with Latin American improvised oral poetry (payada) , being her most recent book “Aquí me pongo a cantar…” El arte payadoresco de Argentina y Uruguay. (2016) Here I come to sing. The art of the payada (oral poetic duel) in Argentina and Uruguay. 

“Aquí me pongo a cantar…” – PDF book

El arte payadoresco
de Argentina y Uruguay

Folkloristika 6-2-2021


The improvised poetic duel is an ancient world tradition that is still present today in Latin America where it takes various forms. One of these forms is the “Payada”, which is performed by two minstrels (payadores) singing and playing guitar. It has become a ritual performance with a special structure and inherent symbolism. Both of these aspects are drawn on in both the private context and during shows, festivities and Cultural Performances (Singer 1972).

The Payada phenomenon is performed with firm respect for traditional gender conventions. Its main objective is to compete by means of drawing on a variety of resources and types of poetic license, in order to prove which performer has the best skills in the art of poetic improvisation within the musical genres of each region.  Expression varies is accordance with the audience and the context in which the performance takes place. Generally, it involves not only poetic art but also rhetorical and argumentative skill. The Payada has a three-part structure: the beginning iin which the payador introduces himself and/or greets the audience; the confrontation of ideas itself, and then finally a farewell. In performative terms, the art of Payada echoes the various phases of perfomance described by Richard Schechner (1994) in his studies of theatrical performances from the East and West: training, workshops, rehearsals, warm-ups, performance, relaxation and consequences. Improvised duels of this kind involving contests by two or more poets are a widely accepted global phenomenon. Payada as a particular kind of musical poetic confrontation is nonetheless an important part of an Iberoamerican tradition and involves a very unique genre of discourse. Case studies of the art from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay will be presented.