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World-renowned Argentine electro-fusion outfit Bajofondo has always dug deep into its cultural roots to create a modern mystical ambiance. While the group still retains much of its original electro-dub-tango essence, its latest album, Mar Dulce, dredges even deeper. The new sound traverses a sea of mixed-up musical genres including Andalusian rap, South American rock en español, and North American alternative pop.
"It's a vision of universal music but from Rio de Plata," Bajofondo's Juan Campodónico explains by e-mail. He's referring to the river mouth shared by Argentina and Uruguay through which so much South American mysticism has been exported in the past century.
Now this universal music incorporates tango's predecessor, the milonga; the even older Afro-Uruguayan candombé; and Argentina's homegrown rock as performed by natives such as Gustavo Cerati. At the same time, Bajofondo has scored guest appearances by the likes of Spanish rap legend La Mala Rodríguez, Mexican pop diva Julieta Venegas, and Americans such as Nelly Furtado and Elvis Costello. Each song offers a slightly different tinge of fusion, but underlying the whole thing is a strong sense of symphonics and a beat so powerful you'll be propelled straight onto the dance floor.
It's all about the way the collective combines the seemingly discordant to make something harmonic. The crying and huffing of a traditional bandoneón or a moaning violin pairs with an array of exotic accents and voice tones to create something that is urban and grungy, yet melodic. "We aren't the typical band in which everyone shares the same age, comes from the same neighborhood, and listens to the same albums," Campodónico says. "Some live in Argentina, others in the United States, others in Montevideo [Uruguay] — and apart from Bajofondo, we all have our own projects."
For example, legendary music producer and composer Gustavo Santaolalla, best known in the United States for his creation of the soundtrack for The Motorcycle Diaries, brings a motion picture quality to the new mix. Meanwhile, Campodónico carries on with the folk-rock instrumentals he has developed in the process of producing artists such as Uruguay's Jorge Drexler. In fact these founding members' own vocals and instrumentation are unique enough that their live shows suffer little from the absence of the albums' special guests.
Rest assured Bajofondo will carry on with the same electric vibe requested by the Winter Music Conference crowd, as well as the eclectic quality appreciated by this town's multinational demographics. That, says Campodónico, is why Bajofondo keeps getting invited back here. "It's a city that looks to the sea and to Latin America. That makes it a lot like the cities where we come from. They're port cities that are full of immigrants who mix and cook up new products in the melting pot."