Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Show de Fidel

**Note, you'll have to excuse the poor film and audio quality on these videos. I was running late and so was only armed with my pocket pal of a camera. Shaky cam @ its best, eh?**

Luckily, yesterday I ran into Fidel Nadal, and a few of his friends at the biggest hip-hop club in Buenos Aires. They let me know that they would be playing at an awesome venue the following day. I bought a ticket without thinking, then later in the day realized I could probably tag along with the rest of the family.

Por suerte, his cousins Fede y Nico, and their parents would all be going to the show and I could tag along. I was even more excited, because seeing the behind the scenes of a famous character is always much more interesting and disarming at the side of those who know the person best. Those who nurtured them, those who supported them, those who know all of the embarassing secrets. De hecho, when I first met Fidel, I had NO idea that he was famous. I actually made him help me clean up all of the mess that I had made in packing all of my bags to go back home.

Fede and I hiked backstage for a bit, where artists were preparing with a bit of bud and brew. Being behind the curtains with Fede was comforting because I was taken care of like family without any of the groupie expectations. I briefely met the other performers, Onechot and Reke, who had accompanied Fidel to LOST, and then went back to the balcony to hang with the fam.

A Buenos Aires rapper Marciano, and friend of Fede's opened up the show. Marciano is a prolific rapper in the local hip-hop scene because of his impressive word play. He has collaborated extensively in the hip-hop community of the Coño Sur, rapping with the boys of Tiro de Gracia from Chile, Contra Las Cuerdas of Uruguay, and of course, Fidel Nadal of Argentina. He's one of the few artists who has circulated a proper mixtape, and is always experimenting with beats and production.

Marciano opening up for Fidel Nadal at Niceto Club in Buenos Aires

Onechot and Rekeson are two of the biggest and most talented artists coming out of the Venezuelan hip-hop scene. Onechot, is actually both a rastafari and reggae scholar, but his musical style runs the gamut. His heart and passion comes out forcefully in his many reggae and dancehall productions, but his throaty ragga sounds softens up comfortably when the production calls for something a bit more suave. Onechot's, (what he calls the Jamaican version of his name Juancho) most promising appeal is in his consciousness--both musical and political. The diversity in his music makes it apparent that he looks to be a global force. His lyrics and style speak to the the entire Afro-diaspora, sometimes calling on Rastafaris in the Caribbean, Africans throughout Latino America, or convoking images of common experience with lyrics like

"Plantation Mentality, bring me back my loyalties

Dem can have our property, African Legacies

I & I refuse the supremacy theory (BIS)"

Rekeson and Onechot, who collaborate often, found an energetic groove, already comfortable supporting one another stylistically, without robbing the other of the spotlight.

Though I was definitely feeling the hip-hop, reggae groove, I must admit that my favorite moment of their show was all about Reke. Me mató! At the end of his set, he got the crowd quiet to talk about his life and where he was from in Venezuela. During his “around my way” talk, he dropped knowledge about all of the problems in his community stemming from usage of “La Piedra” or crack. To this problem, he responded by writing his own heart wrenching version of “Gangstas paradise”, both rapping and singing the hooks. ( I found out later, that he actually started out as a singer.)

THE CHORUS of La Piedra, Rekeson's take on Gangsta Paradise encouraging those in his community to give up the crack:

Quita la piedra que tu camino esta tropezando y alejate de este infierno que te esta quemado date una oportunidad y sal de esa oscuridad recupera la luz que la droga te esta APAGANDO. Get rid of "the rock" that's tripping up your path and get away from this hell that is burning you up. Give yourself a chance, and get out of the dark, get back the light that the drug is putting out.

Reke has a melodiousness and swift ability to shift cadence, which in my opinion escapes many of the most famous latin America rappers. Instead of constantly bulldozing full speed ahead with rapidfire Spanish, Reke knows how to pull back on the tempo, skipping words over a rhythm like rocks over water. And let me tell you that the smooth sing-song quality of the Venezulan accent does not hurt his appeal one bit!

I got to chat with him after his performance and he was a surprisingly introverted and wandering speaker. He didn't say much unless prompted, but his body was marked loudly, including a Tupac-remeniscent tattoo of “REBELDE” across his stomach.

"You want to hear real rap?" One of the reggae artists offered, “Reke is from the ghetto, the real hood” they said. He nodded distantly and said that the place he came from wasn’t very easy.

“People don’t understand what it’s like. People get mad at me for talking about what I see, so they tell me I’m too gangsta, they tell me I only do gangsta rap. Now, people back home wanna hate.” He stated in our spanglish communication. As he has said earlier in his career. "Algunas personas creen que yo le canto al hampa y no es asi. Para hacer una canción conciente no tienes que decirle a la gente que haga esto o aquello. Tampoco soy papá ni responsable de los actos de nadie. Lo que trato con mis letras es relatar mi vivencia tal como es para que la gente tome una decisión acerca de su conducta, basada en una visión real de la vida,"

"Some people think that I'm only rapping to the gang/underworld and it's not like that. To make a conscious song, you don't have to tell people to do one thing or another. I'm not their father nor am I responsible for anybody elses actions. What my lyrics are about is relating my experience exactly as it was for the people to make a decision about their own conduct, based in a realistic vision of life."

He told me that he had moved out of his old neighborhood, but that he still goes back.

I asked him about their next show, which would be the following Sunday and he shrugged with a smile and motioned for me to ask Onechot. "I'm like that. I never know where I'm going, when, how I'll be getting there, but put me on a stage and I'll do my thing."

“Siempre estoy volando,” he told me, making his hand an airplane. As I moved on with interviews he stayed pretty quiet and to himself, sitting on a table with the dressing room unless provoked to do otherwise. He truly was "El Astronauta" as he is also known as, The Astronaut.

Fidel’s show was on point as well—super energetic, with the full band. And the crowd was loving it! In my opinion, Fidel has gained so much support in Argentina, Latin America, and globally, because he has definitely added a local and very Argentine flavor to his melodies, and lyrics. His tendency to purposely sing his vowels a bit flat and open are common in a lot of Argentine and Mexican rock artists and he constnatly shots out to Buenos Aires not only by name but by using local language and cultural imagery.

Fidel, with a silly freestyle about Lola.

After the show, the band, exhausted, hung around to shoot the shit, drinking beers and put a few in the air. Talking with the Pita/Nadal family, I turned around to see another black girl, about my height, with dreds down to her butt, knee high boots, a red plaid miniskirt, and flowers clipped to her hair.

We looked at each other a bit quizzically. “Hola?” I said,

Hola!” She sang back to me, “De donde sos?”


“San Francisco!”

“Word, we’d make a good team”

She told me her name was Dragon Fly De La Luz, everyone in Latin America called her Sativa.

“Sativa?” I questioned as she wrote out her e-mail for me.


“Now hold up! I learned in highschool not to have e-mail addresses like sexyBGirl23, do you give this to your employers?” I joked.

"Of course," she giggled “My employers are weed magazines!”

And there was the beginning of our friendship. As we were talking we noticed another brown skinned brother behind us who catiously butted in with more English.

"Where are you guys from?"

When I answered Pittsburgh he immediately asked me about The Shadow Lounge! As a jazz trumpeter he used to gig at the small club all of the time. And so we made a squad that night of brown sugar, threatening to take over Buenos Aires, threatening to make bands, making plans to have a bunch of brown babies to help out the population a bit.

Good music, good contacts, good bands….

And so the life keeps bringing more and more!!

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