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Natural Mystics

World-renowned Argentine electro-fusion outfit Bajofondo has always dug deep into its cultural roots to create a modern mystical ambiance. Although the group retains much of its original electro-dub-tango essence, its latest album, Mar Dulce, dredges deeper. The new sound traverses a sea of mixed-up musical genres, including Andalusian rap, South American rock en español, and North American alternative pop.

"It's a vision of universal music but from Rio de la Plata," Bajofondo's Juan Campodónico explains by email. He's referring to the river mouth shared by Argentina and Uruguay through which so much South American mysticism has been exported in the past century.

Now, this universal music incorporates tango's predecessor, the milonga; the even older Afro-Uruguayan candomblé; and Argentina's homegrown rock as performed by natives such as Gustavo Cerati. At the same time, Bajofondo has scored guest appearances from the likes of Spanish rap legend La Mala Rodriguez, Mexican pop diva Julieta Venegas, and Americans like Nelly Furtado and Elvis Costello. Each song offers a slightly different tinge of fusion, but underlying the whole thing is a strong sense of symphonics and a beat so powerful that you'll be propelled straight onto the dance floor.

It's all about the way the collective combines the seemingly discordant to make something harmonic. The crying and huffing of a traditional bandoneón or a moaning violin pairs with an array of exotic accents and voice tones to create something urban and grungy yet melodic. "We aren't the typical band in which everyone shares the same age, comes from the same neighborhood, and listens to the same albums," Campodónico says. "Some live in Argentina, others in the United States, others in Montevideo [Uruguay], and apart from Bajofondo we all have our own projects."

For example, legendary music producer and composer Gustavo Santaolalla, best-known in the United States for his creation of the soundtrack for The Motorcycle Diaries, brings a motion-picture quality to the new mix. Meanwhile, Campodónico carries on with the folk-rock instrumentals he's developed in the process of producing artists such as Uruguay's Jorge Drexler. In fact, the founding members' vocals and instrumentation are special enough that their live shows suffer little from the absence of the albums' special guests.

Rest assured that Bajofondo will carry on with the same electric vibe so requested by the Winter Music Conference crowd as well as the eclectic quality appreciated by South Florida's multinational demographics. That, Campodónico says, is why Bajofondo keeps getting invited back to Miami: "It's a city that looks to the sea and to Latin America. That makes it a lot like the cities where we come from. They're port cities that are full of immigrants who mix and cook up new products in the melting pot."

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Julienne Gage is a Miami-based anthropologist and journalist who has worked as a reporter and as a civil rights and international aid communications specialist in the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. Her fieldwork has exposed her to many forms of cultural expression, and during her master’s in anthropology, she studied at Cuba’s Center for the Investigation and Development of Cuban Music.
Contact: Julienne Gage

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