Panamanian great Rubén Blades won his fifth Latin Grammys awards last night for his new album Tango. Here are excerpt from an article by Martin Chilton:
Blades spoke recently about the benefits of choosing tango over salsa.
Tango was also nominated for album of the year and the 66-year-old from Panama City said: “People probably have to rub their eyes and say, ‘What, Ruben Blades in the tango category?’ I was surprised because you never know about Grammy nominations. My album Siembra, arguably the biggest seller in the history of salsa, never got nominated for a Grammy.
Blades, who has also won four main Grammys, believes re-creating his salsa songs as tangos works, even though he had to use completely different phrasing and increase the tempo on songs such as Pedro Navaja.
Blades, whose successful acting career includes appearances in the Milagro Beanfield War (1988), The Two Jakes (1990) and Mo’ Better Blues (1990), has had a varied musical career that has seen him work with Little Steven and Paul Simon.
Asked about the change of musical direction, Blades said: “I felt that the instrumentation and the atmosphere that tango creates would make the lyrics more relevant and stronger. Salsa is action music, whereas in the tango you have space for reflection. There is something about tango that is very emotional. The instruments – the violin, the bandoneon – evoke nostalgia, sadness, opportunities lost and/or found. I always felt that some of my lyrics were shortchanged by the salsa format, with its strong rhythms that got in the way.”
Blades and his collaborator, arranger Carlos Franzetti, began discussing the tangos project more than a decade ago, but Blades put his entertainment career on hold to serve as Panama’s Minister of Tourism from 2004-2009.
Franzetti told AP reporter Charles J Gans: “Tangos reflects a genre-blending approach to music that Blades has dubbed ‘mixtura’.”
Blades will soon be going into the studio to do a “rock en espanol” album, also including some English-language songs he wrote with Lou Reed, with his new Paraiso Road Gang band that he formed with his wife, singer Luba Mason, which he says will play a mix from tango and salsa to jazz and bluegrass.