Growing up, Manríquez was surrounded by music. His house was always full with the sounds of his grandfather’s guitar playing and singing. Manríquez took up the guitar at age fifteen to perform songs of neighboring Argentina recorded by Los Chalchaleros and other current favorites. He soon joined his brother José Manuel and two other friends in the group Los Machis, named after the Mapuche (Indian) shamans (usually women). While studying in Viña del Mar, a city on Chile’s central coast important for contemporary song festivals and competitions, the group competed in the Festival Chile Múltiple, tying for first place with another young group, Quilapayún, which in the following decades became one of the most renowned Chilean nueva canción groups.
After completing two years of journalism studies, Rafael moved to the Chilean capital, Santiago, where he joined Ñancahuazú, a talented trio in the nueva canción vein. Ñancahuazú recorded De Chile a Chile ‘From Chile to Chile’, an album of songs that spoke of the history of Chile, and they toured the southern regions of the country.