Mention Buenos Aires and most will associate it with football and its gods, Evita Peron and Weber’s sketchy musical, and the stirring vision of 2 lone figures dancing tango.
Very few would associate Buenos Aires as thriving with a national rock scene. But in July 1989, Astor Piazzolla, the great musician who reinvented tango by fusing it with jazz, said in one of his last interviews with Gonzalo Saavedra that appeared in the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio under the title “Astor Piazzolla: Un tango triste, actual, consciente”, observed that the city that had once worn the perfume of tango was now inhaling the fumes of punk and rock.
As Deborah Pacini-Fernandez explains in ‘Rockin’ las Américas: The global politics of rock in Latin America’ 2004, although rock was popular in English speaking countries during the 60s, it barely registered in Latin America. In Argentina, rock was listened to by the upper classes, those who knew English or were keen to consume foreign culture. Some local bands did Spanish covers of English songs, but overall, rock was considered a property of the English language.
It was also detested by both sides of politics. The Argentine left judged it as imperialistic while the conservative right associated it with sexual promiscuity and anti-nationalism.
However, during the 70s dictatorship, as English music was banned from the airwaves and the protest song, which originated from Cuba, but prevalent throughout Latin America was censured, a few Spanish-singing rock bands started to emerge from private bars and clubs in Buenos Aires’ underground. At the forefront of this movement was Soda Stereo, influenced by the new romantics in Britain. They were the first to compose original rock songs in Spanish that rejected soap-box posturing. Yet, their insistence of playing rock was a political act as they risked being caught and “disappeared”.