Musician, producer and award winning composer, Buenos Aires-born Gustavo Santaolalla is probably best described as a global ‘visionary’. Having won two Oscars for his original scores for Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain and Walter Salles’ Babel, among other prestigious awards, he is mostly seen on stage with his Argentinian-Uruguayan ensemble Bajofondo — who return in 2013 with their fourth album Presente.
Gustavo Santaolalla spoke to Athinorama magazine and Danai Molocha before an impending live show in Athens, in October 2007, upon the release of the band’s third album Mar Dulce. Largely focusing on the music heritage of Río de la Plata, an estuary between the Argentinian and Uruguayan border, the musician shares his insight on the area’s artistry and sonic wealth — as well as the background of a multifarious career spanning from song-writing to winemaking.
|Gustavo Santaolalla/ © Presidencia de la Nación Argentina|
From revolutionizing Latin rock in the beginning of your career to, more recently, writing film music, the music spectrum of your career has been pretty colourful. What makes your work with Bajofondo stick out?
Is that ‘live’ feeling you wanted to convey through your third album Mar Dulce?Mar Dulce is a very different album, in a way, and yet it still continues with the Bajofondo school, you could say, the Bajofondo aesthetic parameters. It is the result of what’s been happening in the last three-four years... When we did our first record it was more like a live project in which Juan Campodónico and myself got together, we designed this music and invited other producers and musicians to participate. So when we took that record to a live situation we had to put together a band. Very shortly we got together this group of people with whom we had been playing for the last three years and a half. Mar Dulce reflects the new face of Bajofondo, where we have become actually a band that plays live - it has a lot of that immediacy. We recorded it with everybody playing in real time, like the old tango, rock or jazz albums and it definitely reflects what the group is today.
It’s also a record that unites special guests from very different backgrounds. What is the element that unites artists like Elvis Costello, Nelly Furtado and a legend like the late Lágrima Ríos, known as ‘the dame of candombe’?
|Bajofondo/ © Schorle/Wiki Commons|
And how about a veteran rocker like Elvis Costello?
Lágrima Ríos passed away while you were making this album…That was very sad.. I did another project called Cafe de los Maestros, which is the gathering of the elder, the wise people of tango between 70 and 95 years old — we are currently finishing a motion picture about it. When I met Lágrima she was in retirement and this brought her back into the limelight. Unfortunately, Mar Dulce turned out to be her last recording. I think people are going to be very happy to hear her voice there. All the collaborations worked out great and everybody made an effort to put their best on the record. We are tremendously grateful for that.
"Nick Cave, Marianne Faithful, or the Greek actress Irene Papas are tangueros. There is an element that has to do with drama, passion and melancholy that connects these people in that space." - Gustavo Santaolalla
What do you think is so special about Río de la Plata music that had to come out here?
I am curious to know how can a person combine such danceable tango with the moving, often heartbreaking music you write for films?I don’t know! I do many things apart from that anyway.. I have a book publishing company, several music publishing companies, I am producing my first movie - Cafe de los Maestros will premier in Berlin in February, it’s a fabulous movie. I like it all and I feel complete when I do a little bit of everything.
It won’t come as a surprise, then, if we see you involved in a few more projects in the near future?
|On The Road soundtrack/ © Decca (UMO)|
By Danai Molocha