Handwritten setlist from last night’s Bajofondo concert
When was the last time an Academy Award winning composer made you shake your hips? On second thought, don’t answer that, but few have the musical versatility displayed by Bajofondo frontman Gustavo Santaolalla, who is arguably more famous for crafting the scores for such films as Babel, The Motorcycle Diaries and Brokeback Mountain than he is for his myriad of successes as a musician and pop singer. In Bajofondo he has assembled a talented and diverse team of musicians from his home in the Rio de la Plata on the border of Argentina and Uruguay that combines the area’s traditional folk music with modern textures of House, Latino Alt-Rock and Trip Hop to create a scintillating blend they call “Electrotango”.
Playing against a projected backdrop courtesy the band’s in-house VJ Veronica Loza gave the 8 piece band a cinematic quality that was heightened by their tendency to pause for dramatic effect. Songs would often emerge from a lilting violin melody courtesy of Javier Cassala, or the plaintive groans of Martin Ferres’ bandoneon, an Argentinian accordion and swell to a full-blown frenzy by the end of the tune. As Santaolalla was quick to point out, Bajofondo’s specific mission as a band is to spread the power of a simple word: “bailar,” and they harness that power well, as it is physically impossible to resist the urge to dance in their presence.
Snappily dressed Cedar patrons in suits, bolo ties and spats twirled their partners and tangoed with a practiced and graceful ease near the back of the room, while up front the crowd had an electric atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place at a rock club in full swing. With a group of musicians so magnetic and captivating, the widespread dancing was almost a foregone conclusion. Santaolalla makes a fantastic bandleader, with a deep and clear voice that contained a hint of grit and layers of expressiveness. Gustavo was also assisted in guitar duties by Bajofondo’s other main composer Juan Campodocino, who provided an excellent foil for the frontman’s mischievous and charismatic stage presence.
Part of the appeal of Bajofondo is how seamlessly they blend different nationalities of dance music to create a cohesive sound all their own. The bleeping synths and sidechained drums of Chicago House provided a robotic backbone for the thoroughly organic Latin, Roma and Jamaican dancehall styles that Bajofondo loves to experiment with. Here, a smattering of Reggaeton percussion, there a blistering rock guitar solo, all anchored by the deeply funky playing of rhythm section players Gabriel Casacuberta and Adrian Sosa. Some of my personal favorite elements in the night came from Bajofondo’s willingness to dabble in hip-hop, as keyboardist and DJ Luciano Superviellle combined a natural talent for rapping with several inventive scratching portions. Even Casacuberta got in on the fun, passing his bass off to the roadie for a moment to take his turn to spit a verse or two.
During their final song, the large band, which already tested the limits of the Cedar’s stage, invited a cadre of ladies from the audience (and a few determined men) to dance with them onstage, shaking the floor and making for a wonderful moment of connection between the performers and their adoring public. As Bajofondo took their ceremonial bow at the night’s end, they had unquestionably succeeded in spreading bailar to The Cedar once again.
— Zach McCormick, Cedar Intern