Even though Bajofondo has been a pioneer in what has been known all over the world as “electrotango,” do not mention the word in front of Gustavo Santaolalla — the group doesn’t consider it an accurate description of their music.
And yet, after all this commercial and critical success, after all the accolades, Bajofondo arrived to 2012 about to get even hotter: the signing by Sony Masterworks set the stage for their most ambitious and international album to date: Presente (March 5, 2013). The album is a major turning point for Bajofondo.
For the first time, Bajofondo used no vocal guests on an album, and the usual strings were magnified: again under the direction of Alejandro Terán, Presente features 11 violins, four violas, three cellos, and three stand-up basses.
“This time we really worked on the orchestral parts,” said Santaolalla. “We had done something similar in Mar Dulce (2007), but Presente is a much bigger project and the album required extra time spent in that area. We’re thrilled with the results.” Several album tracks also include brass, woodwinds, harp, percussion, and even a Theremin.
Even if the changes from Tango Club (2002) to Mar Dulce to Presente are evident, there’s also a Bajofondo aesthetic that remains a constant. Bajofondo’s music has no written laws; it evolves continually, but the parameters from the first album that were continued in Mar Dulce are amplified and expanded in Presente.
“After playing in virtually all corners of the world, having Sony Masterworks as our new home could not be more appropriate to present the album that most closely resembles what we are as a live band,” said Santaolalla.
That album is Presente, to be released 11 years since Gustavo Santaolalla and Juan Campodónico conceived the idea of bringing together a collective of Argentine and Uruguayan artists dedicated to creating “contemporary music of the Río de la Plata,” the river that separates — and unites — Argentina and Uruguay. Seven albums (two as Bajofondo, a collection of remixes, and five solo releases by Bajofondo members or guests) and multiple tours later, this collective of artists with remarkable individual careers evolved to become a true band known all over the world for its stirring live performances. As Bajofondo’s music constantly grows, evolves, and expands, the denomination of “electrotango” becomes more and more inadequate.
“Simply put, Bajofondo makes Bajofondo music,” says Bajofondo’s two-time Academy Award-winning founder and producer Santaolalla. “What we do is neither tango nor electronica. We believe we do music of the Río de la Plata, and if you want to create a music that represents what places like Buenos Aires and Montevideo sound like, obviously genres such as tango, murga, milonga, and candombe are going to be present, because they are part of the genetic-musical map of that part of the world. But the 40-year history of Argentine and Uruguayan rock, and the 30-year plus history of hip hop and electronica in those places are also part of the map.”
Tango Club (2002), which featured a long list of guest artists such as Academy Award-winner Jorge Drexler, Adriana Varela, Cristóbal Repetto, Adrián Iaies, Didi Gutman, and Pablo Mainetti, among others, quickly caused a stir in Argentina (where the 300,000 + sales reached Triple Platinum). It won Argentina’s prestigious Premio Gardel (named after tango’s greatest singer) as “Best Electronica Album” and a Latin Grammy for “Best Instrumental Pop Album.”
Reflecting the idea of Bajofondo as a collective under which the members also develop their own works, in 2004 Luciano Supervielle — the youngest member — released the first of two Premio Gardel-winning solo albums, both produced by Santaolalla and Juan Campodónico.
Bajofondo Remixed (2005), featuring remixes of songs featured in the albums Tango Club and Supervielle by European, Uruguayan, Mexican, and Argentine DJs, also won the Premio Gardel as “Best Electronica Album.”
As tours went by, what began as a combination of programming and samplings with acoustic and electric instruments — with emphasis on the first — has evolved into a band in which everything is practically played live, with only a minimal percentage of sequences, as shown in Mar Dulce, the first Bajofondo album using a live drummer (Adrián Sosa, now a permanent member). At the present time, Bajofondo is an eight-piece band, with seven musicians and one VJ who triggers images in real time along with the music.
The success of Mar Dulce surprised no one, and the band kept touring the world in increasingly ambitious settings: in an unforgettable night of May 2010, Bajofondo performed at a sold-out Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with the Orchestra of the Americas conducted by Alondra de la Parra. And, as further proof of Bajofondo breaking national barriers and transcending not only the so-called “electrotango,” but music itself, the Russian gymnastics team used Mar Dulce’s "Pulmón," "Infiltrado," and "Grand Guignol" in their routine at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In the last 11 years, Bajofondo has toured all over the world non-stop, performing at the biggest and most diverse World, rock, and electronica music festivals in the world: Coachella in USA, Roskilde in Denmark, Womad in England, Cactus Festival in Belgium, Pirineos Sur Festival in Spain, Pohoda in Slovakia, World Music Festival in South Korea, as well as China, Japan, and 15 countries in the European Union. The band has toured the United States twice, playing venues like UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles and Lincoln Center in NY. Through the years, Bajofondo appeared multiple times in London, including packed shows at the prestigious Barbican Center and the legendary Roundhouse. In May 2009, Bajofondo opened the Argentine Bicentennial festivities at the Obelisco in Buenos Aires in front of 200,000 people (yes, you read well: 200,000). In the same year, their hit “Pa’ bailar” was used as theme song of a top-rated Brazilian soap opera, A Favorita (TV Globo), and in January 2010 the same song became the music for the Acura TV commercial shown during Super Bowl Sunday.
“Presente is our most complete album yet,” says Santaolalla. “It’s a sonic trip that takes you from the most magical to the most epic urban moments.”