With his long beard and hair wrapped up turban-style, lots of people say he looks like the late Osama bin Laden. Top comments on his Youtube videos make mention of the terrorist leader and Yahoo Answers has to deal with the existential questions of why they look so similar. There are even a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to their likeness.
But look beyond the superficial, and you’ll discover that the former world’s most wanted man and Argentine musician, Fidel Nadal, don’t really share much common ground at all.
To start, Nadal is one of the most important figures in the Latin American reggae scene with a couple of Grammy nominations and several decades in the music industry. He is also quite well liked in the United States and wears funkier clothes.
Born in Buenos Aires, 1965, to a black father and a white mother, he has been involved in the Argentine music scene since the 80s. He started his musical career as lead vocalist in the punk/reggae band ‘Todos los muertos’ and moved on to form another group, ‘Lumumba’, with his younger brother in the 90s. Besides launching a solo career in 2000 he has also worked with Latin favourites Mano Negra, recording with them on the classic ‘Casa Babylon’ album and touring around the world.
His solo repertoire consists of catchy, commercial reggae, complete with electronically-manipulated vocals and simple, upbeat lyrics. He sings most of his songs in Spanish but bashes out a few numbers in English too. He is one of the most prolific musicians in the business, having released 22 albums in his 11 years as a solo artist. The album ‘International love’ helped the artist hit the big time as a soloist and made him more of a household name when it was released in 2008.
Finding it impossible not to resort to a well-worn reggae stereotype, the music will get you nodding your head and you may well find yourself humming it in the back of a bus. It is a kind of “candyfloss reggae” however, in that it appeals to the unsophisticated part of your palette. There is nothing very substantial to it and too much of it leaves you feeling a bit off. It is still sweet though, and most people would still enjoy a bite or two when the moment calls for it.
Nadal cites his musical influences as reggae giants such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, and says that he started buying their records when the first imported LPs arrived in his local record shop.
He translated a few of Marley’s tracks, prompting a long-lasting interest in Rastafarianism that still plays an important role in his life.
“I have faith in Rasta, in Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. It’s a culture, a movement and a faith,” he explained to Clarín newspaper back in 2009. “I don’t believe in a white Jesus crucified and bloodied. That’s the death cult. My God is the symbol of life.”
Political too, he often speaks out about racial prejudice- frequently bringing up in interviews the fact that he descended from slaves. Like many others before him, he rejected his birth name and expressed a preference to be called just Fidel. “I’m not a relative of Rafa Nadal – this is a European surname that they gave my black family when they enslaved them,” he told Clarín. “We’re the fifth generation in Argentina, brought from Africa to Retiro.”
Nadal’s latest album came out in 2011 but, if his track record is anything to go by, fans won’t have to wait long until his next one hits the shelf.
And by the way, he doesn’t look anything like Bin Laden.
Dates Active: 2000 – present (solo artist career)
In their own words: “The good thing about music is that you can express yourself. And through that expression, that feeling, you reach people, with the sound and with the words.”
Most famous song: ‘Te Robaste mi Corazon’
Best lyric: “I love you, I love you yes – you are my love, my love, my girl.”
Famous for: Taking Argentine reggae around the world.
Best to listen to: At a fun fair…