Tuesday, March 6, 2012
BONDI BLASTER - ¡Lo Juimo! (Stronghold Sound, 2012)
More blatant self-promotion for Bondi Blaster on the official date of its release. I won't review my own album, obviously, but I'd like to share another background story with you. In this occasion I'd like to talk about the history behind "Alta Farra" the last track added to the EP, the first one to have a video of sorts.
I've known Bolivian multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Navia for a few years, he was a constant nightlife figure at many parties where I DJ'd and he always suggested that we should meet at his studio to work on some tracks together. However, I never felt confident enough with my musical skills (or lack of thereof) to go in the studio with this guy who has some real talent and actually knows a thing or two about music, unlike me. So I always postponed his invitations.
Then one night he invited me to jam at his family restaurant, I sequenced some random cumbia loops and he played guitar on top. It was a slow wednesday night so nobody witnessed the event besides the restaurant employees. But that was the birthplace of this collaboration.
Later I returned the favor by inviting him to jam at the Stronghold Sound studios and the result of that jam was the funky-chichadelic "Boliguay Express." That track represented a big switch and a leap forward in the short career of Bondi Blaster. Unlike all our previous studio experiments, this track was born of an actual jam, all the instrumentation was improvised on the spot and we recorded it in a manner that represented this style with loyalty: each instrument was recorded live in one take, no rehearsal, no edits, no double takes, just press rec and play. It was a complete different type of experiment that infused a lot of new energy to the project.
Unfortunately for us, Stronghold Sound's director and main producer Dub Snakkr had to leave the US and relocate somewhere in the Middle East before we could work on more tracks the way we would've wanted it. But fortunately Gabriel Navia had a studio of his own, in the restaurant's basement, and that's were we met and co-produced the only Dub Snakkr-free track of the EP, "Alta Farra."
It started with me bringing a couple of loops to his pro-tools and lining them up there, then Gabriel suggested we should add some Andean pan-flutes and I said "why don't you play some charango too, since we are going in that direction?" I was honestly a bit scared of the track sounding too much like Shakira's "Whenever Wherever," it definitely sounded poppier than the previous Snakkr-produced tracks. But we still didn't know what to do with the track and then I remembered I had these lyrics that I had written many years ago, when I was still pursuing a career as a rapper, lyrics that I had never recorded. It was a perfect match, so we decided to go with it.
The original idea of the "Alta Farra" verses has to be tracked back to the late-nineties, in Buenos Aires. Back then I was still an MC, and I rapped under the moniker of Mangaka. I also happened to have a girlfriend at the time named Carla. So in my nerdiest moments of linguistic infatuation I'd freestyle rhyme verses inside my head where all the words, like both our names, had exclusively the vowel 'A'. Back then I never thought of it as a serious concept for a song, it was only an inside joke between me and my then-girlfriend. But not too long after that, Argentine folk/rock singer-songwriter Leon Gieco came out with a surprising hit "Ojo con los Orozco" an imaginative and hilarious pseudo-rap song where all the words had exclusively the vowel 'O'. That proved, at least to me, that it was feasible to write a whole song with just one vowel, and being the language nerd that I am, I took upon the challenge and started to collect, on a small notebook I took everywhere with me, words and phrases with the letter A.
Years passed and I had relocated to Los Angeles, in 2002, when I finally finished the first draft for the song, that back then was titled "La Mala Racha." I remember I rapped it to Tami (the girl who sings "Salchichón Primavera" on Bondi Blaster's debut) in early 2003, on our way to the Coachella festival and I suggested --since her real name is obviously Tamara-- that she should sing the chorus. That was probably the first time we ever talked about collaborating on a song together. However, soon after that I moved to San Francisco and left behind all my intentions of ever pursuing a career in rap music, to focus in my DJing.
Years passed and I felt that that song never got old and it could still be recorded. I suggested it to Dub Snakkr and he was down, but we never had the time to produce it. A year later, at Navia's Pachamama studio, "La Mala Racha" finally became "Alta Farra" after I changed the chorus and adapted a couple of verses to the new beat and song-structure.
We had the instrumental track finished and we had only to add the vocals and we didn't have much time because the engineer who was going to mix it was also about to embark on a long trip through Asia. Ideally I would've liked Tami to come and sing the chorus, but her travel north was impossible to arrange on time, so Gabriel volunteered to jump on the mic and save the song. To make matters worse I got sick with the flu but I didn't wanna abandon our project, we had only one day left to finish the recording and I went to the studio with the flu and recorded those three tongue-twisting verses with a lot of interruptions to cough, sneeze and blow my nose. Hence, my voice sounds completely different, compared to "Cumbia Nena" the other track where I rap on this release. Still, we decided to keep it, because our only other option was to delay the release by three or fourth months more, and considering some of the songs, like the original "Salchichón Primavera" had been recorded in 2010, we didn't feel like pushing this back any longer.
Following the collage aesthetics imposed by the "linyera" music production style and the cover art of the release I had the idea of doing a zero-budget do-it-yourself video for "Alta Farra" with the song's lyrics on the screen, to help people understand, at least partially, what's going on, because I realized, for the untrained ear and/or the non-Spanish-speaking foreigner, it'd be impossible to appreciate it. So, using self-photos taken with the laptop's webcam, plus a bunch of photos from my own personal collection and plenty more stolen from the internet, I put together in a couple of weeks this overwhelming visual collage. That's it for now. Hope you enjoy the video and remember the EP is available now.
Buy Bondi Blaster's debut EP, ¡Lo Juimo! on Itunes, Amazon, CDBaby, or pretty much anywhere else you want.