Not Los Pericos, not Resistencia Suburbana, not Sumo, not Los Cafres, not even Alphonso S’entrega. The first reggae song in Spanish is Argentine and was interpreted, nothing more and nothing less, than by Donald, the father of the Sucundum, Chequendengue, Racatacata and Sequeten Sequeten.
That’s how it is. Back in 1970, many years before the formation of the first and emblematic reggae bands in our country, even when the correct pronunciation of the term was not yet established. “reggae”, Donald Clifton McCluskey had unwittingly become the first artist, author, and performer of “Scaba Badi Bidu”, the first song of the genre sung in Spanish and the first, recorded outside of Jamaica.
Reggae emerged as a style in the 60s. The rhythms of ska and rocksteady, already established in Jamaica, slowed down, later being combined with primarily American influences such as doo-wop, country, soul, blues and rock. This musical style has as its main characteristic the constant repetition of its rhythm.
In the late 60s and early 70s, Donald was 18 years old and had already signed a contract with a record label, paving the way for the construction of one of the most important phenomena in Argentine popular music. However, music always ran through the veins of the McCluskey family: his father, Don Dean McCluskey, was a talented American jazz musician who, in 1932, toured the main cities of South America with the Los Estudiantes orchestra. from Hollywood, accompanying the presentations of the first sound films of the Metro Goldwyn Meyer company.
Once in Argentina, Don Dean not only installed the musical hit “Bailando en el Alvear” with his band, but also met Lila Suárez Howard, fell in love and started a family.
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Yes, they all came up with musicians: Alex and Buddy, Donald’s brothers, were the founders of the successful vocal group The Mac Ke Mac’s in the 1950s. The success was so great that they were invited to “The Ed Sullivan Show”, the most watched program on American TV at the time. In turn, Alex was Luis Miguel’s manager together with Hugo López and an important music producer in Argentina: together with Palito Ortega, he brought first-rate artists such as Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and Gloria Gaynor to the country.
For her part, Patricia Dean, the younger sister of the family, had great recognition with the song “What a huge madness” and Donald began to cross the crest of the wave with his onomatopoeic songs that became a phenomenon: “Shivering”, his most iconic theme, for example, sold 600,000 copies in just days.
Now, how was Donald’s first approach to the, at that time, so far away Jamaican reggae?
He first got closer to the sounds thanks to Alex, his brother who, at the time, had come to Kingston, the Jamaican capital, for work reasons. There he had the first approach to a rather peculiar sound, with a particular and catchy rhythmic identity that was immediately transferred to Donald’s ears in Buenos Aires and, together with the composer Fernando Monsegur, who traveled to the Jamaican capital to know that particular sound. and returning with a copy of the band Money Day, they created the basis for Scaba Badi Bidu.
The single was accepted with euphoria: a gold record and more than 180,000 copies sold enshrined it as a paradigm in the history of music throughout the region. Even Bahiano himself, one of the main references of the genre in our country, confessed that Scaba Badi Bidu was the first reggae song he heard in his life.
For this reason, the Bahiano invited Donald to participate in a tribute version of “Scaba Badi Bidu” with Gregory’s Guardians and thus, to the rhythm of “Come with me now, let’s live”, the king of hitera onomatopoeias revived his fundamental contribution to the history of world reggae.
What’s Donald up to today?
Always linked to music, today Donald is the godfather of the third edition of the First Festival de la Canción Argentina, the cultural meeting that makes independent artists from all over the country visible, giving them the opportunity to publicize their work through a Multi-gender contest that has as a jury the main representatives of the industry and the representation of the main organizations in the field: SADAIC, AADI and SADEM.
In order to participate, all interested artists may send their song to www.festivalargentina.com until August 25, inclusive. The categories that participate are Rock, Pop, Tango, Folklore, Latin, Urban Music and Electronic.
In addition, on July 24, the artist will perform a streaming show where he will pay tribute to maestro Armando Manzanero by singing great boleros and Latin American romantics.