Murga Pop

Jaime Roos sings of exile, Uruguayan superstardom, and his love for the Beatles

"I'm a big fan since 'Cometa de la Farola,'" says top Latin rock producer and two-time Latin Grammy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla, referring to a song on Roos's Candombe del 31. "He's one of the key pillars of Latin American music."

However, in El sonido de la calle (The Sound of the Street), a book by Uruguayan author Milita Alfaro, a sincere Roos described himself as a "consolidator" of different streams of Uruguayan popular music rather than an "innovator." But after twelve critically and commercially successful albums (not counting rarities, compilations, and his productions for other artists), there's just too much water under the bridge. "True, I've always considered myself more important as a consolidator than as a creator," says Roos, "but after so much music I must raise a little flag and say, 'Hey, I've also done something, haven't I?'"

Yet despite recording, touring, and becoming increasingly popular in Buenos Aires, for some reason his music is virtually unknown beyond the Río de la Plata, which has prompted some to say that Roos is too comfortable with his status as a Uruguayan icon. "I was always interested in playing everywhere," protests Roos. "But I was never offered a serious proposal [to come to the U.S.]. Some people suggested I come by myself and form a band here. I wasn't interested in that." In 1989 he was invited by RCA to spend a month recording in Nashville for what he derisively terms "a so-called Hispanic project," but nothing happened. "It wasn't about money, it was about the musical angle," says Roos dismissively. "They wanted me to make commercial music and be their puppet."

Jaime Roos isn't laughing at you, he's laughing with you
Jaime Roos isn't laughing at you, he's laughing with you


Performs at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, March 15, Tickets cost $20 to $25. Call 305-538-2251.
Billboardlive, 1500 Ocean Dr.

Finally, a New York-based Uruguayan promoter named Emilio Baglini got in contact with Roos through the latter's production company and sought to bring him to the States, a serious risk considering that the legendary musician is mostly known here among a handful of music experts. He's bringing an eleven-man band (ranging in age from 24-38) that includes some of Uruguay's top musicians: brothers Andrés, Martín, and Nicolás Ibarburu (bass, drums, and electric guitar, respectively); Gustavo Montemurro (keyboards); legendary Walter Haedo on percussion; Roos on acoustic guitar and vocals; plus singers Freddy Bessio, Emiliano Muñoz, Pedro Takorian, Ney Peraza (who also plays guitar), and Alvaro Montes. Since 2001, Roos's backing group has been able to endure his famously obsessive rehearsals. What they produce together onstage as a result is truly eloquent, a nonstop candombe and murga tour de force with jazzlike virtuoso playing, chilling percussion and vocals, and a rock and roll attitude.

Gustavo Santaolalla, who is not known for giving away praise, attests to the power of Roos's music. "I saw them recently in Uruguay, and they cracked my head open."

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