Friday, September 05, 2014

¡Gracias Totales!



I first became involved in Latin America because of environmental concerns, specifically deforestation in the Amazon basin. When I eventually made my way to Rondônia to study the problem, I began to appreciate the incredible variety of music from Brazil and the entire region. Eventually the cultural geography of Latin American music became a strong interest, and I weave it into my teaching and have given quite a few public lectures on the subject.

But I will never be an expert on the music of Latin America. First, I have almost no formal training in music. Second, my competence in the languages in which the music is sung is somewhere between mediocre and rudimentary. Third, Latin America encompasses dozens of countries, with thousands of artists producing fabulous music that deserves my attention, but each week comes with only 168 hours to listen and learn.

But every once in a while, I learn about a major artist -- or even an entire genre -- who had previous escaped my notice. Today was such a day, as I waited in traffic listening to The World on WGBH. It was here that the Global Hit segment was recognizing the death of Argentine Gustavo Cerati, who had been in a coma for several years. The millions of fans of his band Soda Stereo had been hoping for a recovery, and apparently the entire nation of Argentina was in mourning, with his music playing in most public places today.

Cerati famously ended his concert with the words "Gracias Totales" -- thanks for all -- which rapidly became the hashtag marking online remembrances worldwide.

Lagniappe

NOTE: The audio for this story is not available as a separate segment from the links above. It is worth seeking, though, on the Sept 4 broadcast. It is the last segment, starting about 05:30 from the end of the file. An NPR obituary blog post by Jasmine Garsd provides a more comprehensive retrospective and puts Cerati's work in the context of Argentine politics as well as 1980s popular music globally.

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