Sat. Mar 30, 2013 at 9:00pm EDT
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Five years ago Argentine musician and composer Gustavo Santaolalla, together with Uruguayan musician-producer Juan Campodónico conceived of a group that would be a collective of Argentine and Uruguayan artists dedicated to creating “contemporary music of the Rio de la Plata”, the body of water that separates the two countries. The project, which debuted under the name Bajofondo Tango Club, was an alliance of producers, musicians and singers that took shape in the recording studio, and the release of their first album was the culmination of this process.
Bajofondo Tango Club was released in November 2002 and featured a long list of guest artists, including Jorge Drexler, Adriana Varela, Cristóbal Repetto, Adrián Iaies, Didi Gutman and Pablo Mainetti, among others. Bajofondo Tango Club won a Latin Grammy award as the “Best Instrumental Pop Album” in 2003 and has sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide.
Reflecting the idea of Bajofondo as a collective under which the members also develop their own works, in 2004 Luciano Supervielle, the youngest member of the band, released his solo album, Supervielle, presented by Bajofondo Tango Club and produced by Gustavo Santaolalla and Juan Campodónico.
Bajofondo Remixed was released in 2005. The album was comprised of remixes of songs featured in the albums Bajofondo Tango Club and Supervielle, by European, Uruguayan and Argentine DJs in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Cordoba, Paris and New York. The album includes remixes by Alexkid, Romina Cohn, Marcello Castelli, Capri, Lalann, Bad Boy Orange, Mercurio, OMAR, Boris Dlugosh, Twin, Calvi & Neil, Androoval, Nortec and Zuker, to mention a few.
Since its inception, Bajofondo has toured non-stop, performing at major World and Electronica festivals such as Roskilde in Denmark, Womad in England, Cactus Festival in Belgium, Pirineos Sur Festival in Spain, Pohoda in Slovakia, and making appearances in 15 European countries. The band has toured the United States twice, culminating their 2006 tour at the prestigious Lincoln Center in New York City. In 2007, Bajofondo appeared in London’s legendary Barbican Center, and in Brussels, Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro.
What began as studio-based project combining programming and samples with acoustic and electric instruments has now evolved into a band that plays live with a minimal amount of electronica. Today Bajofondo is an eight-member group, with seven musicians and a VJ who triggers images in real time along with the music. As a result of the band’s musical expansion, Bajofondo has liberally added elements of Latin American roots music, moving their sound beyond “tango-tronica” and leading them to drop “Tango Club” from the name to simply “Bajofondo” for the current release.
The new album, Mar Dulce, was recorded in real time. All the members played together in the studio as if they were a rock or a jazz group, which was a radically different approach from the first album. Mar Dulce was recorded in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo and Madrid. The multiplicity of locations reflects the cosmopolitan attraction of Bajofondo, as well as the eclectic list of guest artists including the extraordinary British singer and composer Elvis Costello, Spanish rapper Mala Rodríguez, virtuoso Japanese bandoneon player Ryota Komatsu and several Rio de la Plata artists whose origins cover the entire gamut from traditional to vanguard.
Uruguayan artists participating range from the great Lágrima Ríos (this would be her last recording) and guitarist Toto Méndez (musical director of Alfredo Zitarrosa’s quartet) to electronica duo OMAR and vocalist Fernando Santullo, ex-Peyote Asesino, a band that also included Juan Campodónico. Argentine artists include Gustavo Cerati, the frontman for Soda Stereo, the most popular rock group in Latin America in the 1980s, and Juan Subirá, keyboardist and composer of Bersuit, one of the most popular bands in Argentine rock, who makes a surprising appearance on Mar Dulce as a singer, revealing another facet of his talents.
Nevertheless, there’s something that unifies artists of such a variety of origins, nationalities and generations, and it’s a feeling that is very difficult to translate into words. If there was someone who defined tango as “a sad feeling one dances to”, in the case of Bajofondo’s music that definition could be expanded to "a feeling one may listen and dance to." It’s something intangible, a certain melancholy that has something to do with existential issues and also with the old traditional barrios of Buenos Aires and Montevideo—what Santaolalla likes to call “cosmic tango”. And this feeling can be found in artists as diverse as Elvis Costello and Mala Rodríguez.
Although the evolution from Bajofondo Tango Club to Mar Dulce is obvious, there’s also a Bajofondo aesthetic that remains a constant. There are no written laws for the music of this band, but there is a distinct “bajofondista’ ethos that was present in the first album, continued on Supervielle and can now be heard in it’s most fully realized form on Mar Dulce.
Bajofondo is comprised of Gustavo Santaolalla on guitar, percussion, and vocals; Juan Campodónico on programming, beats, samples and guitar; Luciano Supervielle on piano, keyboards and scratch; Javier Casalla on violin; Martín Ferrés on bandoneon; Gabriel Casacuberta on upright bass and electric bass; Adrián Sosa on drums; and Verónica Loza as VJ and on vocals.
Gustavo Santaolalla is the two-time Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning composer of Brokeback Mountain and Babel. The Argentine musician was named Producer of the Year at the 2005 Latin Grammys, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture in 2007 for Brokeback Mountain and in 2008 for Babel. Santaolalla has received a total nine Latin Grammys and one Grammy award. He has produced albums for Juanes, Julieta Venegas, Molotov, Café Tacuba, Juana Molina and the Kronos Quartet. The Molotov project was Santaolalla’s first production for his imprint Surco Records and sold over 2 million albums worldwide.
In addition to his two Oscar-winning scores, Santaolalla has composed the soundtracks to the films Amores Perros, 21 Grams, North Country and The Motorcycle Diaries. The music from his Ronroco album has been featured in Michael Mann’s film The Insider.
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John C S
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