Staff Mixtape

From local teenage ska band to top of Latin American rock band

Santiago Oyarzabal
January 2023

From local teenage ska band to top of Latin American rock band

Hi everyone, I’m Santi and I’ve recently joined Musixmatch as the new Head of Community!

I’m a fan of Latin American rhythms, from traditional to rock and electronic sounds…

So, please allow me to go back a little, to three decades ago! I was just starting University when a friend gave me one of the most precious presents I’ve ever received: the then recently released album El León, by the Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

I already loved the Cadillacs, but at first listening I realised why El León (1992) was about to bring them (and with them Latin rock in general) to an entirely new level.

While in their beginnings the Cadillacs had filled a gap in the Argentine rock movement with ska sounds and punk attitude, not everybody had taken them as seriously as they had deserved, perhaps because of their eclectic style and rebel looks… this despite having already recorded their beautiful Vasos Vacíos! with Latin megastar Celia Cruz!

El León changed that. To their originally prominent ska sounds, it added salsa, joropo, reggae, rap, and other rhythms, all combined with a strong brass section and lots of percussion. But the album not only came with a bunch of new, beautiful songs, like Carnaval Toda la Vida, Gitana and El aguijón.

It also signposted Los Fabulosos Cadillacs’ definite embrace of Latin America in topical terms and as a sense of belonging. Inspired by Rubén Blades’ song Pedro Navaja, the story in the tune Manuel Santillán El León started what could be seen as a trilogy of latin/rock-sounding, politically-self conscious songs – continued in later albums with Matador and Mal Bicho.

Songs for the time-capsule

Manuel Santillán, El León


Siguiendo la luna

In case of doubt, the album contains also a cover of Blades’ Desapariciones, an bleak, urban story about politics and the criminal State. Gallo Rojo and Arde Buenos Aires are also part of the trend of political songs

The reggae Siguiendo la Luna, is one of my favourites, a rather unusual love song but still a love song, which reads

Siguiendo la luna no llegaré lejos
Tan lejos como se pueda llegar
Following the moon I won't get far
As far as one can get

Before probably not so successfully trying to reassure the other with…

Vamos mi cariño que todo está bien,
Esta noche cambiaré, te juro que cambiaré
Come on my darling, everything is fine
Tonight I will change, I promise you I will change

Check out the album page on Musixmatch

Santiago Oyarzabal
Music passionate working hard to align communities and bring people together around the world
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