In tune with a new wave in the United States of artists who renewed the genre, the Argentine music scene experienced a formidable blues boom in the 90s that was reflected in the international visit of legendary figures almost forgotten in their countries that filled stadiums here , and the proliferation of local redoubts and bands of that style.
Those were the years when, made possible by a favorable exchange rate, BB King became a regular visitor to our country; names like Albert Collins, Albert King, Taj Mahal, James Cotton, Buddy Guy and John Hammond, and cult figures like Koko Taylor and Katie Webster arrived; local bands like La Mississippi, Memphis la Blusera and Las Blacanblues reached peaks of popularity; and nights at places like Oliverio or El Samovar de Rasputín witnessed endless zapadas with top-of-the-line musicians.
But it was also the time when, coinciding with the direction that the genre had taken worldwide, Argentine rock was able to appreciate closely and be inspired by the American musical roots, instead of diving into the reading that the British had made of it. blues in the ’60s, just as it had happened and left its mark on the artists of the first generation of the local movement.
At the origin of Argentine rock is classical black music”
Ricardo Tapia, leader of La Mississippi
“At the origin of Argentine rock is classical black music. What happens is that there were no shows for that music. When the great blues artists began to come in the ’90s, people began to be interested because they saw that this music it was present in some way in the records I already had, “Ricardo Tapia, leader of La Mississippi, explained to Télam.
“We used to come together with the girls. We did versions of spirituals. Suddenly, all that craze for the blues began. He grabbed us with the surfboards going to the beach. We were in the right place, at the right time,” he pointed out. this agency the former Blancanblues Cristina Dall.
On the one hand, there was in the United States a revaluation of his own musical roots from the brilliant appearance of Stevie Ray Vaughan, in the ’80s, whose figure took a mythical state when he died in August 1990, shortly before turning 36 years, in a plane crash. In fact, its success facilitated the emergence of a whole brood of new blues, including Robert Cray.
The other great kick for the genre to explode in Argentina came with the success obtained by BBKing, with its second visit to the country, in 1991, after its first incursion in 1980.
Thus began some movements of producers who were interested in exploiting that niche, such as the case of Roberto Menéndez, owner of the Oliverio venue, who asked several local musicians for “help” to draw up a list of possible famous visitors.
Those were the times when the peso-dollar parity caused an avalanche of international shows of such magnitude that even the song “Stop coming” became fashionable, a parody of the group The Sacados to the underhanded complaint of local musicians who glimpsed a loss of audience in their concerts due to this phenomenon.
“Roberto was one of the mainstays of all that. One night we finished playing, I think Botafogo was there too, and he told us that he wanted to bring artists and he asked us who they could be, so we got excited writing down names,” Tapia recalled.
This is how legends such as the Taj Mahal, Bo Diddley, John Hammond, Albert King or Albert Collins began to parade through our country, with notable success; as well as cult artists such as Katie Webster and Koko Taylor, used to singing in small clubs, who were surprised by the interest they aroused in large audiences around these parts.
“As many of those artists Menéndez brought them, then they fell for Oliverio. So it happened that one day we were performing there and Taj Mahal joined. Today I think about it and it is a flash, but at that time it was something very common,” said Cristina Dall, in keeping with Tapia, who recalled a long run with Albert Collins in the same spot.
With the return of Pappo’s Blues, after the “heavy” experience with Riff; Carpo’s particular relationship with BB King; the popularity achieved by Memphis, which put the genre on television and became a phenomenon almost of family consumption; and the surprising appearances of La Mississippi and Las Blacanblues, the local scene acknowledged receipt of this new wave.
It was really funny but everyone started doing the blues. All the bands that appeared, even if they were rock, used the name ‘blues band’ because it was the fashion”
ex Blancanblues Cristina Dall
“It was very funny but everyone started doing blues. All the bands that appeared, even rock bands, called themselves ‘blues band’ because it was the fashion,” Dall ironically.
In addition to the multitudinous shows of classic American artists, the performance for two consecutive years of the Alligator Festival, organized by the emblematic Chicago label, in the Buenos Aires Stadium Obras; and a joint show of Pappo’s Blues, Memphis la Blusera and Mississippi at the Autopista Center marked the crowning points for the audience.
But this craze for the blues also gave rise to the appearance of a first local band entirely made up of women, as happened with the quartet made up of Dall, Déborah Nixon, Viviana Scaliza and Mona Fraiman.
“Until then, women did not play the blues, they only sang. So although the first album was called ‘Four women and a damn piano’, the theme of voices was always highlighted and we were invited to do choirs, but it was never emphasized on the piano, let’s say, “stressed the former Blacanblues.
As the new century approached, this local craze for the blues was losing steam and thus leaving behind its most glorious time.
“Now the blues is a boutique wave, in small places, for few people and everyone is very concerned with the musical performance. There is no line of black music because the social is also different. There is no interest in putting certain things into lyrics. There are many artists who recreate other greats. The blues is now something more aesthetic where the focus is on the interpretations “, analyzed Tapia.