One of the most beloved of all Argentine musicians, Gustavo Santaolalla has been a giant in the country’s rock nacional since the 1980s, and internationally recognized for decades. This Saturday, he’ll perform music from his most recent album, Desandando el Camino (Retracing the Road), at Teatro Coliseo at 9 PM (hurry for tickets here!). The album comes from a documentary miniseries, “Quapaq Ñan: Desandando el Camino,” in which Santaolalla stars, produces, and creates the music, about the Incan Empire’s history in Argentina.
The Argentine composer and musician is well on his way to an EGOT, with two Oscars, an Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe, and fistfuls (literally, see the photo below) of Grammys already under his belt. He dabbles in everything from solo albums to producing to composing, and whatever he touches seems to turn to gold.
After involvement in rock nacional throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Santaolalla moved on to high-profile collaborations. His musical tastes are eclectic, to put it mildly: his own music runs the gamut from indigenous-inspired Argentine folk to ’80s rock to neo-tango. As a producer, they range even more wildly. He’s the behind-the-scenes genius between many of Juanes’s hits, and has been the Colombian superstar’s producer since his first album in 2000. Santaolalla also produced the tongue-in-cheek “Tango del Pecado” for Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13, and even worked with opera soprano Dawn Upshaw.
His solo music is popular as well, and rightly acclaimed at home and abroad, especially for 1998 classic album Ronroco — please, just listen to it. You’ll understand. The album’s acoustic guitar moves through the landscapes of the Southern Cone, from the wide-open pampas to Iguazú to the Atacama, and somehow captures them all perfectly through music.
The album was so big that it became a crossover TV and film hit, with haunting appearances in everything from HBO series Deadwood to the CW’s Jane the Virgin. Santaolalla has lived on and off in Los Angeles, California for years, so the movie industry seemed a natural career jump for him. After the Hollywood love for Ronroco, he leapt head first into soundtrack, composing for big name directors like Walter Salles, Ang Lee, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Even if you’ve never heard of Santaolalla until now you’ve probably heard his music in some of this century’s best movies. For a sense of his work, check out Salles’s 2004 classic The Motorcycle Diaries (with, ahem, our favorite Palermo resident/handsome man Gael García Bernal), with fast-paced, intense electric guitar accompanying Che Guevara on his South American odyssey. Then came the flood of awards: Santaolalla won two consecutive Best Soundtrack Oscars, first in 2006 for Lee’s cowboy epic Brokeback Mountain, with its wistful, Western-tinged music, and then the next year for Iñárritu’s global hit Babel.
The musician has become a source of pride for his home country — his references to Argentina in his music and awards speeches don’t go unnoticed. Get prepared for the concert with his dazzling variety of genres, songs, and musical collaborations, then head to what’s sure to be a show-stopping performance on Saturday.