For 30 years, Andrés Calamaro has been a forerunner in the growth and critical progression of the movement ‘Rock en Español’.
Whether in his capacity as a band member (Los Abuelos de la Nada, Los Rodríguez), a producer (Los Fabulosos Cadilacs, Los Enanitos Verdes, Fabiana Cantilo), or in his extensive solo work, Calamaro’s legacy stands as a vital, varied, and prolific saga in Argentine music.
From the early 1980s, as a keyboardist for Los Abuelos de la Nada, Andrés Calamaro quickly embraced the fertile solidarity and craft of musicianship. Always a collaborator, he discovered that the joy and value of creating music could not be separated from a socially responsive process of experimentation.
The knowledge Calamaro gained as a session musician with figures such as the Makaroff brothers and Julian Petrina, set him up for a career encompassing many musical styles and thematic concerns. In his various collaborations and solo work, his sound covers everything from pop, rock, blues and tango to flamenco, rumba, and piano balladry. His work is distinguished, however, by a personality unique for its balance of tenderness and provocation.
Despite his comparative youth among the members of Los Abeulos de la Nada, Calamaro is credited with writing some of the group’s biggest hits, including ‘Mil horas’, ‘Sin gamulán’, and ‘Costumbres Argentinas’. The last of these carries a funky introduction to verses sung over muted guitars, culminating with keyboard-driven power pop and euphoric saxophone solos.
The musician’s first solo record, ‘Hotel Calamaro’, was released in 1984, providing a sample of the variety to come after the dissolution of Los Abuelos de la Nada in 1985. The debut featured a blend of blues, pop, and even New Wave tendencies that came to form an integral part of his later sound, though commercially the album had minimal success.
After the release of a fourth solo album in 1990 (‘Nadie sale vivo de aquí’/ ‘Nobody gets out of here alive’), Calamaro relocated to Spain, escaping the bleak conditions for musicians in Argentina’s struggling economy.
His next band, Los Rodríguez, released four albums in Spain between 1991 and 1995, garnering the musician an even greater following in Argentina.
The Los Rodríguez period was marked by arguably the most eclectic mix of styles in Calamaro’s catalogue. ‘Sin documentos’ (1993) remains an influential example of how experimentation and chemistry provided the catalyst for innovations in Spanish rock that are still reflected in music nearly 20 years later.
With a voice reminiscent of Lou Reed or Bob Dylan, Calamaro’s lyrics explore the turmoil of an era torn between liberation, repression, poverty, and renewal. Rather than writing directly political songs, however, his strength lies in finding an intimately personal way to express the wider Latin American social experience.
Calamaro’s 1997 solo album ‘Alta suciedad’, marked his return to Argentina and the second phase of his solo career. Encapsulating this more direct approach to social commentary, it evoked a culture both fabulous and depraved.
Alongside his solo work, Calamaro composed several soundtracks in the mid-90s for the films ‘Caballos salvajes’ and ‘1,000 boomerangs’.
He sustained a period of tremendous output between 1997-2007, including ‘Honestidad brutal’ and ‘Salmón’, works considered by many Argentine critics to be his best.
Calamaro became more lyrically raw and more experimental in his compositions, yet more studied as a singer, displaying a technical and topical maturity all the more forceful because he has continued to address the problems of social and personal decay.
Evaluating the past 30 years of Calamaro’s work reveals a massive payoff for the potential shown in his youth. In 2009, he released ‘Andrés – Obras incompletas’, a compilation of six CDs, two DVDs, and a book of notes and letters.
For this week’s Music for the Weekend we bring you the song “No son horas” (“No time”) from the 1999 disc ‘Honestidad brutal’.
Genre: Rock en Español
Dates active: 1978- present
In their own words: “I prefer to think I’m a great unknown.”
Most famous song: ‘Flaca’ (from the album ‘Alta Suciedad’)
Best lyrics: ”And we wanted to leave/wanted to enter/and could not even breathe/ this time he said to me/no gets out of here alive.”
Famous for: Innovating the ‘Rock en Español’ genre
Best to listen to: When you want to hear a little bit of everything done well by the same artist.