Blades and Veloso, when music becomes literature


At the last Latin Grammy Awards, two great veterans of Latin music received the most important awards, recording of the year for the Brazilian Caetano Veloso and person of the year and album of the year, for the Panamanian Rubén Blades.

“No one in music has your literary work,” reggaetonero Residente told Rubén Blades at the ceremony on November 18. This phrase can sum up the work of not only Blades but also Veloso, the two artists have devoted themselves for almost half a century to describing their realities in each of their songs.

Singer-songwriter, producer, musician, actor, politician and activist, this is Rubén Blades Bellido. His career began in the late 1970s. Music runs in his blood, he is the son of a Colombian who played the bongo and a Cuban singer who knew how to play the piano. He lived part of the Omar Torrijos dictatorship in Panama. By then, in 1968, he was already a sponge absorbing the ideas and sounds that, especially from the United States, were coming to his country.

“Success tastes of pain and sweat and hope. Often times it tastes like shit. Fame is a place you visit. It’s not a home. Anyone who doesn’t understand that suffer and lose their lives, ”Blades said with emotion as he received the 2021 Person of the Year award.

Music critic Juan Carlos Piedrahita points out how Rubén Blades “made his stories a sample of the best Latin American chronicle that could exist. He took it upon himself to write in actions, not to write in concepts. It is why we imagine the words he sings, this is one of his great virtues and this is what makes him one of the most important chroniclers in Latin America “.

On one occasion, the musician and Gabriel García Márquez had an interesting debate. The Nobel Prize winner asked Rubén “if salsa could be a literary genre”, the question left Panamanian reflection and he decided to answer him through the song GDBD (Gente Despertando Bajo Dictadura), a proof that salsa could to be a literary genre.

And if Blades made salsa a literary genre, Caetano Veloso made Bossa Nova poetry. At 79, this other veteran won recording gramophone of the year along with his son Tom Veloso for the song ‘Talvez’.

Like Blades, Caetano comes from a music-loving family, he became known when his sister, Maria Bethânia, recorded his first composition. He is one of the pioneers, along with Gilberto Gil, of “tropicalismo”, a cultural movement that revalues ​​traditional Brazilian music.

“The great virtue of Caetano Veloso is that he made the stories of Bahia, his region in Brazil, universal. They always teach you that to be universal you have to reflect the ‘village’, and that’s what ‘he made it through music, “says Piedrahita. It is not for nothing that Veloso, who is also a filmmaker and a poet, is called “one of the great singer-songwriters of the century”.

“Both did their homework, they did it right, they were careful and, something very important is that they played for what they believe and for what they feel, and sincerity is rewarded sooner or later, ”concludes Piedrahita.


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