Singular Sensation

Argentine rock pioneer Nito Mestre felt somehow vindicated last Wednesday when Colombian star Juanes invited him to share one of his encores in front of the enthusiastic audience that packed the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts. "I wanted to meet him and give him my album," says Mestre about his encounter. "And he looks at me and gets totally emotional. 'I know who you are,' he told me, 'you don't have to introduce yourself, listening to your music is how I started,' so it's always flattering to see how what you did 30 years ago affected people all over Latin America, but even more interesting when these kind of comments come from a colleague who is doing so well right now."

What Mestre did 30 years ago was to share songwriting and singing responsibilities with fellow musician Charly Garcia in a Simon & Garfunkel-esque folk-rock duet called Sui Generis. In 1972 the band became the first Argentine act to hit on a grand scale in a country where rock and roll was only six years old. Witty lyrics and catchy tunes defined Sui Generis's style, perfected over four albums that grew immensely popular in the years following the band's last show in 1975. Mestre and Garcia continued as solo artists for the next 25 years, reuniting in 2000 for a tour that included not only Argentina but also Uruguay, Chile, and Peru, three other countries where Sui Generis claimed legendary status.

Today Mestre is forming a band in Miami to record a new album, part of a five-year plan to tour the countries he couldn't reach in the past. "I feel this is a new beginning for me," he says about his upcoming gig on Miami Beach. Although he briefly showed up at the second Argentine Festival at Bayfront Park in 2000, he considers this show his U.S. debut: "I don't care how many people come to see me, even when I know there are many Argentineans living in Miami. To be playing here for me is like starting all over from scratch, and I'm really excited."

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Javier Andrade