Sunday, February 10, 2008

No Second Fiddle

As the poster shows, Bob Dylan will be playing Buenos Aires on March 15, and I know at least one person who's seeing him in Santiago de Chile on March 11 and then flying across the Andes to see him here. He'll also play March 13 in Córdoba, March 18 in Rosario, and March 20 in Punta del Este (Uruguay, at the hideously pharaonic  Conrad Casino).

Given how many native English speakers are in both Santiago and Buenos Aires at present, there's likely to be more than a few foreigners in each crowd. I don't know who's the opening act in Santiago, but everyone in Buenos Aires will have the pleasure of hearing León Gieco, whose career parallels Dylan's in many ways.

Several years younger than Dylan, Gieco grew up with the Beatles and Stones but, like Dylan, he has shown a genuine interest in what, for lack of a better term, academics call ethnomusicology. Like Dylan on Highway 61, Gieco traveled from the Bolivian border to the tip of Tierra del Fuego to document traditional Argentine music and incorporate it into his own work. Like Dylan, he often accompanies himself on mouth harp, and his Bandidos Rurales thematically resembles Dylan's John Wesley Harding.

While all this might sound derivative, Gieco is an original. No less a figure than Pete Seeger played with him in Buenos Aires and invited him to the United States, where Gieco also played with David Byrne. If Dylan fans are smart, they won't miss a minute of an artist who's well-known in the Spanish-speaking world, but deserves a wider fame. An onstage collaboration between the two would be something to see, and I regret that I'm likely to be gone from BA by then.

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