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Voices of Pinochet torture victims get a hearing

A “TORTURE soundtrack” of songs written and sung by Chileans imprisoned during General Augusto Pinochet’s regime is set to be released after being compiled by a Britain-based academic.

Manchester University announced on New Year’s Eve that an online archive of recordings — some secretly recorded and smuggled out of the fascist dictator’s concentration camps — would go live on January 8.

A choir founded in one of the 1,000 camps will be among the musicians to perform at the launch event at the Chilean Museum of Memory and Human Rights.

The Captive Songs project will also tell the stories behind the morale-boosting songs sung by some of the 40,000 mostly left-wing activists imprisoned by Pinochet.

Dr Luis Cifuentes, who wrote and performed during his detention before going on to study at Manchester University during the 1980s, explained how music helped prisoners cope with the harsh conditions.

“This archive is of great importance because it reflects not only a very rich cultural heritage but also the ways in which the victims used their own cultural identity to overcome horrific moments,” he said.

Visitors to the website will be able to listen to recordings of songs such as El Cigarrito by socialist folk musician Victor Jara — the most famous musician killed by the Pinochet regime.

The collection was created by Chilean-born academic Dr Katia Chornik.

And she made an urgent appeal for former prisoners who may have fled Chile during the dictatorship to come forward with new material.

“It’s been over 40 years since the onset of the dictatorship, so the time to collect this valuable material is very limited indeed,” said Ms Chornik.

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