Argentine rock musician Gustavo Cerati, founder of the power trio Soda Stereo, died last week in Buenos Aires after a four-year coma. Larry Rohter, the New York Times South America bureau chief during much of the musician’s career, wrote Cerati’s obituary for the paper. The clip below shows him on stage with Shakira in the Argentine capital.
Except for tango, and the occasional folk musician such as the late Mercedes Sosa, Argentine music has had relatively little influence beyond the South American continent. Even the major figures of rock nacional, such as the brilliant but erratic Charly García, haven’t had a great impact in the English-speaking world, though Soda did record one album in New York.
I’ve seen García live, as well as Fito Páez and David Lebón, and listened to quite a few other Argentine rock musicians – I particularly enjoy the Dylanish León Gieco – but I never managed work up any interest in Cerati or Soda Stereo. Even my Argentine wife can’t recall anything memorable, and her sister’s husband – who still owns a CD shop and often provides me music – never saw fit to even mention Cerati to me.
I don’t want to belittle Cerati, but my only real memory comes from a visit to the northwestern city of Tucumán when Soda Stereo was playing there. To promote the concert, a sponsoring tobacco company was passing out free cigarettes on the central Plaza 9 de Julio – ironically (or appropriately) enough for Cerati, whose three packs a day habit undoubtedly contributed to the stroke that put him in a coma at age 51. Argentina's tobacco laws have since changed, for the better, but I don't know whether or not this type of promotion is still legal.
Buenos Aires Live! In Saratoga (California)
Next Monday night at 7 p.m., at the Saratoga Community Library (in Silicon Valley, near San Jose), I will present a digital slide lecture on travel to Buenos Aires. There will be ample time for questions and answers, and my Moon Handbooks to the Argentine capital, Argentina, Chile and Patagonia will also be available at (slightly) discounted prices.