By: Luis Daniel Vega for Noisey.
Translated by: Mabel Aguirre
Read the original text in Spanish here: ‘Aputoi, canción de un solo tiro’: La historia del nuevo disco de Velandia
On Sunday August the 16th, 2015, before 150 people crammed between Matik Matik’s hot walls, Edson Velandia summoned nine musicians and two actors to play the same song for one hour. In a hurry, without falling into the traps of makeup, he did not give into the matter and two months later he releases a CD containing one of the most moving sessions in the musical history of this fabulous cantina at the Quinta Camacho neighborhood in Bogota, where there’s also been recordings of memorable evenings such as the recording of ‘Toma tu jabón Kapax’ (Take your Kapax soap), the first bite of Los Pirañas, and ‘Kalimán’, the dramatic meeting between Los Toscos and saxophonist Tony Malaby. The over the top and rambling tune was called ‘Aputoi: song at once’.
A one hour song?
I am not aware of any other but I do harbor the memory of having heard lengthy pieces of Yes and Jethro Tull, they were nothing but convoluted attempts of dressing up rock with a sophisticated and symphonic outfit. Although my devotion to these bands remains intact, I must confess that I never revisited those long lasting songs. Back then, I preferred, the messy, less virtuous songs, the ones that blow your mind away in a flash. So, what would a one hour song directed by Edson Velandia sound like? The invitation was enough to get rid of my teenage prejudice and, of course, of the Sunday boredom, that dreadful supernatural feeling hanging over mortals on the first day of the week.
On the night of August the 16th, 2015 a great part of the hypothetical audience of the concert would be walking around Rock al Parque, which at that time had a very attractive headline, Atari Tennage Riot, Dub de Gaita, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars , Mitú, Los Pericos and Nortec Collective. Other people were supposed to attend to a clandestine Celso Piña concert at Solar, a new bar in La Macarena, and most of the public would succumb to the drowsiness of the afternoon which, even being a holiday, was still that of a Sunday. However, at about eleven o’clock, every corner of Matik Matik was inhabited inch by inch by 150 enthusiasts who waited in anticipation for the surprise that the singer, composer and palabrero (man of words) from Pie de Cuesta had in store for us. The same man who dared to lead the solemn Big Band Bogota with a machete; the one that went through Latin America with his band to sacrifice the mask of a ghost-like donkey in Patagonia; the one with the cynical sense of humor and merciless ballads; the one that imagined ‘Sócrates’, -that lysergic album for children-; the one with the puns and wordplay; the one who wrote “La muerte de Jaime Garzón” (“The death of Jaime Garzón”); the one who created ‘Cancionero Rasqa’ (Rasqa Song book); the one from the opera that tells the misadventures of a man who can’t shit. The same indomitable who avoids comfort, that night he was about to plunge again into the abyss.
Neither he nor the musicians nor the audience knew what was going to happen.
We were already suffocated before they even started. The location’s modest fans distributed momentary bursts of fiery and thick fog. The warmth brought to mind the huge spikes of the Petronio Alvarez Festival at ‘Los Reyes’ hotel in Cali. Away from the real tropics, we had ours in the heart of Chapinero.
Edson Velandia settled his hair, raised his arms and released his first indication to the sweaty fanfare. What sounded next, closely resembled what we had already appreciated years earlier when he directed the Big Band Bogota at Jazz al Parque or the Velandia Bin Ban at Distritofónico: a sharp minimalistic, rocking and tighten groove. Right after came a punk attack that rested on a melancholic waltz. By that time twenty minutes had gone by, the amount of time that the conjurer took to announce the three rhythmic and melodic motifs (hypnotic ‘rasqa – rock’, unbridled punk and plaintive waltz) which he would turn on and off over the next hour, guided by his holy intuition. As a possessed chorus leader he drew posters inviting the public to laugh at the band, to applaud, to insult, to repeat that disturbing chorus sang intermittently by Juanita and Valentina, The Áñez sisters, two Bogota singers who, fortunately for us, do not suffer from the famous BSC (according to Keith Richards: the band singer syndrome).
“Yeeeeeeessss … nooooo” we sang in unison. It resembled a mass. And nobody took out their cameras, and no one recorded anything on their cell-phones. Such a strange scene. Everything indicated that the director of the celebration grabbed us by the neck.
Then Velandia, or the character he was portraying that night, “flirted shamelessly with one of the female singers” and she replied with deliberate insolence. And we listened to impossible verses -octosyllables of seven syllables – which he used to reveal part of his biographical handbook with humor and drama: “Yo me dio un pulmoní/ Me curé con yerbabué/ Yo sufrí una gonorré/ Apliqué penicilí/ Yo me dio una disfoní/ Me alivié con guapané*/ Yo escribí una sinfoní/ Y extravié la partitú/ Me partí una coyuntú/ Y toque la baterí/ Me escribí una novelí/ Pero la dejé incomplé/ Yo siempre he sido engreí/ Yo nunca he sido modés/ Yo topo rimas modér/ No tomo rimas prestás (…) Me han decío guerrillé/ Por mi canto campesí/ Me han tildáo de apatí/ Por no luchar por ni mier/ No lucho ni por ni mier/ Ni a mis enenemí odié/ Si me quieren dar puel cu/ Yo les hago brujerí”. (“I got a pneumonia/ I got cured with peppermint/ I suffered from gonorrhea/ I applied penicillin/ I got a dysphonia/ Was relieved with guapané*/ I wrote a symphony/ And lost the music sheet/ I broke a joint/ And I played the drums/ I wrote a novel/ But left it incomplete/ I have always been conceited/ I have never been modest/ I have modern rhymes/ I never borrow rhymes (…) I have been called guerrilla fighter/ Due to my peasant singing/ Have been labeled as apathetic/ Since I don’t fight for shit/ I don’t fight for shit/ Not even my enemies do I hate/ If they want my ass/ I do witchcraft on them”). And suddenly, like a ghost, out of nowhere Joe Broderick showed up amongst the audience. Carefree and leisurely, the writer and translator of Irish origin -who wrote Camilo Torres’ biography and was marked by Colombian security agencies as a “suspicious individual” – dispatched right away a piece of ‘As You Like It’ by Shakespeare. There was silence and his voice steeped in spirit drinks calmed us, allowed us the necessary breath to survive what was still to come.
The band -composed by members of the bands La Revuelta, Mula, Meridian Brothers, La Mercosur, Pedrina and Río, 1280 Almas, Suricato, Los Toscos, El Ombligo and Romperayo– continued its unexpected juggling: percussionist Juan David Castaño, played a shrill trumpet and made the air vibrate with a home buzzer. Sebastian Rozo, on the euphonium,
got a megaphone from his pocket and improvised an unintelligible rap. Guitarist Kike Mendoza and pianist Ricardo Gallo injected surf noise, Santiago Botero and Camilo Bartelsman held a rhythmic rearguard without blinking for an instant, and María Valencia, the saxophonist, adjusted a couple of tavern-like soliloquies –in a Ralph Carney fashion- at the end of this sad waltz, where Velandia, caustic and torn, let himself go, to tell his first sexual onslaught: “Yo le dije a la pelá, que se llamaba Claú/ ¿por qué es que tanto le apú esas cosas a esta ho?”/ Ella dijo: “mientras ud estrenaba los cartúch/ Yo miraba los pituf por la antena paraból/ Y a los enanos azú les dijo la Pitufí:/ que yo sea la única mú no sería la pena mí/ pa que sacien la utopí arréglense con la izquier”. (I told the girl, named Claú/ “why are you in such a hurry about those things at this hour?”/ She said: “while you broke the cartridges/ I watched The Smurfs on satellite TV/ And Smurfette told the little blue guys: “me being the only woman, wouldn’t be a problem/ help yourself with the left, so you can fulfill you utopia”)
When everything seemed finished, Velandia reads a raving monologue and Las Áñez recited some lustful verses from the book ‘Ají Chivato’ a Bucaramanga classic erotic picaresque, clandestinely written in 1977 by one José Sant-Seyer. At the end of this string together they disgorged desperate and sarcastic verses: “Soy apático a la ruina y a la plusvalía/ Al gentío fanático, a la filantropía/ Yo me río de mi lío (…) la utopía no es la mía/ Liebre no soy, ni morrocoy/ Yo estudié con Atehortúa/ Que sabio y curtío dició/ Buenas tardes, buenos días, la utopía no es pa yo”. (“I am apathetic to ruin and goodwill / To fanatic crowd, to philanthropy / I laugh at my predicament (…) utopia is not mine / I am no hare, nor tortoise / I studied with Atehortúa / Who wisely and experienced said / Good afternoon, good morning, utopia is not for me” At this point the waltz became sadder. From the shadows Cesar Badillo -actor form the La Candelaria Theater – improvised excerpts from Don Quixote and Si el río hablara, two of the most memorable productions of the legendary theater company. What Badillo did, while writhing to the rhythm of waltz was painful, intense, mad and angry. He looked like a mad prophet shouting liturgy, presiding over some kind of communal catharsis.
When the band played the last note, we woke up from a trance. Only “Ausencia” (“Absence”), the devastating ride by Jorge Oñate, brought us back to the world, to Matik Matik’s sweaty floor.
What would be in principle a simple song about utopia –commissioned by the Más Arte Más Acción Foundation within the reflexive activities from their Minga platform: exploring utopia – became a monumental work in which Edson Velandia grasped all of his expertise in lyrics and composition methods associated with random music, in which chance and improvisation determine the structure of a work that, in this case, will never be repeated in the same way. This means, basically, that it will never be played live again. That´s why the composer and Benjamin Calais, – the French sponsor who has been pulling Matik Matik´s strings for five years – had the subtlety to materialize one of the most shockingly creative moments we have ever lived in this Chapinero joint a CD recorded by Daniel Restrepo, Fatso´s bassist.
In Aputoi: song at once, Velandia avoids political activism and disclaims ideologies. His reflection on Utopia – which ultimately is a nihilistic and hopeless confession – roams around the grounds of comedy and caricature. In these times of retouching and artifice it is rather an honest, raw and crazy song as Aputoi which appears to have been imagined long ago by León de Greiff, whom Velandia himself, in turn, dedicated the song ‘La lengua del león’ (2011) (‘The Lion´s tongue’): “Otra canción/ he de cantar,/ ingenua (…) Canción que nada diga/ y apenas sí sugiera./ Que nada diga/ más deje en los oídos/ vaga impresión insegura de leyenda/ y de quimera (..)”. “Another song / must I sing, / naive (…) Song that says nothing / and scarcely suggests. / That says nothing / but that leaves in the ears / a vague, insecure feeling of legend / and chimera (…)”. So wrote the paisa poet near the Cauca River in June 1926 … so sang the Pie de Cuesta singer in Bogota on August 16th, 2015. Those are the vicissitudes of fate.
TN: Unfortunately the puns and word play get lost in translation, given this fact I preferred to translate the meaning and concept of the verses