Ricotero: a fan of Patricio Rey y Sus Redonditos de Ricota.

The Argentine music scene is in shock this week following the announcement that due to “an ailment of the brain,” Carlos “El Indio” Solari — arguably the most popular rock idol in Argentine music history —  will not be performing live for a while, and maybe not for good.

The reclusive 66-year-old singer whose mysterious aura has captivated the public for decades rarely gives interviews but came on the air with radio host Mario Pergolini to explain why there had been no talk of concerts lately. The last one he gave in December gathered 100,000 fans, nearly overrunning the 170,000-strong city in Mendoza Province where it took place.

“I’m sick, but it’s not cancer nor AIDS… there’s something bothering me in my brain, something debilitating, so I’m under treatment,” Solari said on Vórterix FM, without giving more information about his illness. Infobae reports that sources close to the musician revealed he’s struggling with Parkinson’s Disease.

Here’re some highlights of the talk (in Spanish):

In 1976, “El Indio” (to add another layer to the mystery that is Solari, no one really knows where he got the name. Some say it may be linked to a 1960s soccer player named Jorge Solari who was known as “Indio”) founded Patricio Rey y Sus Redonditos de Ricota, aka: Los Redondos. Most Argentines would call them the greatest “national rock” band of all time not only because of their massive concerts and sales, but also because of their influence on generations of Argentine rockers inspired by their musical legacy. Add a bit of rebelliousness, a sprinkling of lawlessness and a whole lot of mystery — which is boosted by their practically nonexistent contact with the press as well as the fact that they’ve never signed a record deal — and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a legend.

Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota, better known as Los Redondos
Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota, better known as Los Redondos

Originally a sophisticated, music-theatre ensemble in which audience members were given Ricotta muffins (redonditos — hence the name of the group), they became a cult band in the underground circuit of La Plata (their hometown) and Buenos Aires in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Their popularity grew by word-of-mouth, and soon enough, fans were calling their concerts “masses” because of the “spiritual high” they could reach by attending them. Needless to say, their priest was Solari with his intriguing lyrics, distinctive vocals and on-stage persona (sunglasses, office outfit).

Their 1986 album "Oktubre" is considered one of the best in Argentine rock. The iconography on their covers by artist Rocambole is another ingredient in the legend.
Their 1986 album “Oktubre” is considered one of the best in Argentine rock. The iconography on their covers by artist Rocambole is another ingredient in the legend.

By the 1990s, FM stations began playing their albums and “Patricio Rey” (a fictional spiritual leader who gives the band its name,  wrongly assumed to be Solari) went mainstream. At this point, Los Redondos stopped playing in Buenos Aires due to violence that accompanied their concerts. Fans blamed the police, who had killed a young concertgoer, Walter Bulacio, whom they had arrested before a show in 1991.

The band then started touring around the country, gathering a following of rock pilgrims who would take over cities and towns and transform them into “mini Woodstocks.” This only served to heighten the band’s mythical status.

Los Redondos disbanded in 2001 after completing two gigs at River stadium attended by 140,000 fans. The reasons, supposedly, included disagreement over the musical direction of the band, a squabble for leadership between Indio and lead guitarist Skay Beillinson (one of those guitarists who can claim to have a signature sound like The Edge, Tom Morello or Santana)  as well as sheer exhaustion from the shows, which were quickly spiraling out control due to alcohol- and drug-fueled brawls much like those seen in soccer matches. (When a man was stabbed inside River stadium, Indio stopped a concert for the first time ever to tell his audience to “consider this one of the last shows.”)

Solari then launched his solo career, automatically inheriting all of Los Redondos’ fans, who continued to follow him wherever he performed. Today, people in their teens who never saw Los Redondos live are as crazy about them as those who did live through that time. And all of them are heartbroken this week, over the possibility of not attending “mass” anymore.

As some sort of small consolation, Solari told fans he’d stage one final show to say goodbye… and to give them a last chance to take part in “the world’s largest mosh pit”: the inevitable conclusion to a Redondos and/or Solari show when they play “Jijiji.”

That’s going to be something worth seeing, nothing short of historic.