Thursday, July 07, 2011

Alfredo Zitarrosa

Last week, after the conference was over, two of the English professors from the University of the Republic of Uruguay were kind enough to take me and another visiting American on a drive to the charming vacation town of Colonía.

While there, I spotted a music store and asked my new Uruguayan friends to help me pick some Cds to remember Uruguay by. I had read about Luciano Supervielle as the hot new Uruguayan artist on the plane, so I picked up his album. I also got a two-cd compilation of Candombe, the distinctive, highly percussive Afro-Uruguayan music (and, I’m told, the only music that this solely Uruguayan—tango, being, of course, shared with Argentina). Both are terrific.

If you want old music, traditional music, they said, maybe try Alfredo Zitarrosa. But, the man warned, his music is very sad, very depressing. He has one song, my new friend continued, in which he likens his failed love, his failed life, his failed nation, to the slaughter of a calf which is vividly described in the 16-minute song. By the end of the 16 minutes, you’ll want to kill yourself, too, he said. This music may not be for you.

But my fellow American and I took one look at this face—that sad, manly bassett hound topped with a lot of hair and a bit too much gel really does it for me—and picked up copies of a collection of Zitarrosa. I can’t stop listening to it and it seems to me that his is the music I have been needing all my life. Gorgeous, lush, and melancholy, with beautiful clear masculine vocals and a sweet Spanish guitar, the music moves me to my core.

To hear this man singing mi pais, mi dolor, mi gente, mariposa is to feel, all facts to the contrary, almost able to understand Spanish.

I love Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but there is something about melancholy songs in another language that just slays me. My love for Jacques Brel will never abate, but I needed someone new. Zitarrosa forever!


G. E. Light said...

Have you listened to much Tropicalia from Brazil? Start with Caetano Veloso . . . Grammy-winning Livro (1999), Transa (1972), or Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis (1968).

In a completely different vein search out the disc Perotin (1989) by the Hillyard Ensemble on ECM.

Paul Sinclair said...

Thanks for reminding me of Alfredo Zitarrosa, Anne. His 'El Violin de Becho' will never cease to haunt me. Paul Sinclair
Incidentally, your photo (painting?) is beautiful.

edu said...

Hi, Anne. I´m from Uruguay and I was in the Coloquio too.

On the website of Words Wihtout Borders, I read your article about your visit to Uruguay. I find it really interesting, but I noticed that you mentioned Honoria Somers instead of Armonía Somers. A simple mistake, but this correction could be of help in case you (or anyone else) are considering to find more information about her.

Apart form that, if you like Zitarrosa, you will enjoy listening to Los Extranjeros ( From this site, you can legally download some of their songs.

But I think you could give a try to other Uruguayan artists like Jaime Roos, Mauricio Ubal and Fernando Cabrera to know much more about Uruguay and its music.

Finally... glad to know you liked chivitos ;)

That´s all.

PS: sorry for my English.

Anonymous said...

I saw Alfredo Zitarrosa play Guitarra Negro un la cuidad de Mexico when I lived there in 1979. I went to all four of his concerts and sat in the front row. His music, his soul, his singing has stayed with me forever. I have one of his first albums, and now I am listening to Guitarra Negro and Violin de Becho over and over again and it never fails to move me in a way no other song from Latin America has. What a gift to the world his voice and songwriting is.