Raúl Malo is the leader of The Mavericks, a legend of Spanish country music. His story.
It could easily have been Miami’s Luciano Pavarotti. Or an Elvis Presley a la Cuban. Maybe the Frank Sinatra of Nashville, where he lives. But no. Raúl Malo (A very good singer, worth the paradox) is today the Gardel of the United States.
Leading his band The Mavericks, this man with a portentous voice had been making country music, rock and roll, blues and Tex-Mex for more than thirty years (a musical style from northeastern Mexico that was introduced by Mexicans in the region of Mexico). Texas, in the ’40s) when now he has just hit with an album sung entirely in Castilian. But why compare this man born in the United States to nothing less than the Creole Thrush? Well, in addition to the unequaled vocal range that Raúl has (a kind of rock tenor) there is a whole story behind it.
“At my house there in Miami my parents listened to all kinds of music. Boleros, rancheras, cumbias, fox-trot. But many tangos were also heard. I have recorded the memory of Gardel’s songs when I was very young. The tangos were always there. playing there. I also really liked a tango orchestra by someone called … Aníbal … (thinks) … Aníbal …
– Yeah! Anibal Troilo. My God, how that orchestra sounded. It was a delight you know.
Every four or five sentences, Raúl will say “you know.” Because like his Chicano friends (Americans of Mexican descent), he uses the spanglish to speak in interviews with the Latino media. You know.
The Mavericks (whose translation into Spanish could be “Los Disidentes”), a band of the most important of the country genre in the USA, multi-awarded and praised by true giants of music, disbanded in 2003 after releasing six studio albums and having fourteen singles at the top of the charts. After the breakup, Malo released six solo albums and reunited the Mavericks, already with another group, for 2012. And with much more acceptance than before.
– What do you know about Argentina?
– I was born and raised in Miami and my parents are Cuban. My grandfather was Spanish. Miami is a very international city and I have always had Argentine friends and friends. I have considered many of them as brothers, and I still have Argentine friends. It is a country, yours, that as a child has caught my attention, not only the culture but the music that has always resonated in my house and in my soul from the beginning. And not only the music of tangos and Astor Piazzolla, which is one of my favorites. I also remember when I was young and listened to Argentine rock music. You guys always had a very strong rock and roll scene. For example, a very famous band that played a lot at home was Soda Stereo. Wow! That band sounded super good to us, we liked their songs. And always listening to it made me want to visit Buenos Aires.
Raúl Malo and his Mavericks have just released an album titled In Spanish, that has been breaking it among the Anglo public. Something that is not at all usual in the United States. What is this event due to? To begin with, a list of classic Latin songs is included as unbeatable as they are unknown to those who are not Latin. For example, songs of Juan Gabriel (Not worth it), or immortalized by Javier Solís, Omara Portuondo and even a version of the tango by José María Contursi and Francisco Lomuto Only shadows. But how? A country singer singing tangos? Yes, with this guy that is possible and even normal.
-That song was heard a lot in my house, when I was a child. I think that en the version that Libertad Lamarque sang. Although I know that Gardel also sang it. It’s a great song. First I got to know it as a tango, and then I discovered other versions, I learned to play it in my own way and I always liked that sensual thing, which is not so tango, but more bolero, it has a different rhythm. It represents that thread that runs through musical genres. That version I play it half as in the style of (the music of) James Bond. With a very spy rock electric guitar.
But then there is another no less data for the explanation of this success. And it’s the version that makes I forgot to live. Yes, of course, that of Julio Iglesias …
– That was one of the first songs I wanted to record. I had an idea to do a more folk arrangement. It’s a folk country song. My musicians did not know her. That is a beautiful song, which can be recorded in a thousand different ways. My grandfather liked it very much, he listened to it through Julio Iglesias. And I was stuck in the unconscious.
– This is an album that opens borders, just at a time where Donald Trump in the United States creates walls to separate. Was it some kind of message that you wanted to give?
– At this time in this country politics has become very ugly, even the language that these people use in public … The treatment of Latinos in particular is something that has bothered me a lot. That does not mean that this album has political messages in itself, but also and in some way we are a band that has been successful in American music, and that at this point and in this particular moment they are releasing an album entirely in Spanish. Look, if this record, These songs make someone think something different, they change their mind a little, or at least make them remember how beautiful Latin culture is, that’s already a whole message. The beauty of this country (for the USA) is precisely because of that Latin culture that is present here everywhere. You go to any city and there are Latinos everywhere. Not only Mexicans and Colombians, but Argentines, Cubans, Peruvians, Bolivians, Nicaraguans. And for me that is the good thing about my country. So this album is a tribute to all those cultures. This was what we had to say at this point.
– So there is a message then …