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Rockdrigo and the mythology of the voice of street Mexico

2022-05-22T16:58:30.699Z

Rodrigo González made history with a single album in life full of satire in which he told stories of ordinary people. On the 30th anniversary of the release of his latest album —posthumous— 'I'm not crazy', EL PAÍS reconstructs the character through a dozen testimonies from friends and family



His voice was silenced while the subsoil of the Federal District roared, that September 19, 1985 in which everything fell apart.

The building in which Rodrigo González lived collapsed with him inside during that traumatic earthquake that left thousands of bodies in the rubble and burned into national memory.

And then, as they say, a legend was born that has a lot to do with urban mythology: the Rockdrigo;

the street musician who came from Tampico to eat up the capital;

the poet who sang to the dogs and the streets and the loneliness and the alcohol and the subway and the employees and the smog.

Raw songs, with the only accompaniment of a guitar that was falling apart, a harmonica and his stark voice.

During his life he only recorded

Hurbanistorias

(1984), a homemade cassette that he himself sold at markets and bars in the city.

After his death, his friends and family rescued dozens of songs and released three more albums.

The last one,

I'm not crazy

(1992, Ediciones Pentagrama), turns 30 this 2022.

—It was another time and it was another Mexico.

Mexican rock forgets that we have roots: we lack self-esteem, sometimes we feel sorry for them.

I believe that Rockdrigo is one of our most important roots.

Rafael Catana met Rockdrigo during a university strike, one of many in a hectic political age, with the shadow of the dirty war lurking around every corner.

They got along well and began to play together in bars on the outskirts.

They, along with other musicians such as Fausto and Edgar Arrellín, Nina Galindo or Eblén Macari, were the seed of a musical movement that they called “rupestre”.

Rupestre for its rudimentary, for its directness, because they left the song in the bones and appealed to a Mexico without glamour, in black and white.

Rockdrigo wrote the manifesto.

In November 1984 they made their great public presentation, in a series of concerts at the Museo del Chopo.

For the next year, they continued to play all over town, making a name for themselves.

—And suddenly life ended with the earthquake.

The musician Rodrigo González, 'Rockdrigo'.

Paul Demeyere

I am not crazy

Nina Galindo was one of the few women in the rock art movement.

"What I spent with Rodrigo was very little, but what we experienced was very cool," she recalls by phone.

"I couldn't start a conversation with him because he was talking to me about five different topics at the same time and I was choking."

One day she visited Rockdrigo at her house.

At that time he was recording new songs.

Galindo became infatuated with one of them and asked for a copy to cover it.

But he only had one cassette.

He “told me: 'I lend it to you so you can copy it, but you take care of it as if it were the apple of your eye'”.

A month passed.

Galindo called several times to meet and return the tape, but Rockdrigo never answered.

The last call was the day before the earthquake.

“I kept that cassette for many years as a treasure.

His departure weighed heavily on me.

I kept and hid that material that I didn't deserve."

Five years later, Mireya Escalante — Rockdrigo's ex-partner, now deceased — asked him for that recording in order to edit it.

This is how the last Rockdrigo material published to date was obtained:

I'm not crazy

.

The chiaroscuros of Rodrigo González

His death left among his friends, above all, pending conversations.

The feeling of something unfinished.

Calls that never materialized, arranged concerts, drunken sprees that didn't happen.

Roberto Ponce, one of the cave artists, says that Rockdrigo appears to him in his dreams, but that he does not speak to him: he only laughs.

Perhaps it is because what Ponce remembers most are the joints that his old partner smoked constantly, always in the most inappropriate places, to provoke.

He recognized the body of Rockdrigo in the morgue and he of the then partner of the musician, François Bardinet: “They were both naked.

He beaten and half pale.

I saw that he had more beard, I saw him very ugly.

It was a Dantesque show, I didn't want to go back."

Rodrigo González was a complex figure.

“He was a lonely guy, he didn't open up too much.

He had a very dark side to him as well,” Ponce points out.

He had an only daughter with Mireya Escalante, the cumbia singer Amanda Lalena Escalante

Amandititita

, to whom he did not give his last name

.

The family defines the relationship as "delicate".

Consulted by EL PAÍS, Lalena Escalante has declined to speak about her father, but in a text published in 2015 in the weekly

Proceso

she remembered him in bittersweet terms: "Without fear of being wrong, I will say that I am not thanks to Rockdrigo, but despite him ( ...) From the first years of my childhood I lucidly remember a sweet man, with glasses, a loving father”.

19 always.

pic.twitter.com/Cv663vlXp9

– Amandititita (@amandititita) September 18, 2019

He also had a lighter, brighter, satirical side.

“He was crude, but he was quite a funny person, very playful, even insolent, coarse.

Very scatological.

He liked to make jokes and trick you, ”Ponce continues.

He could also be attentive: "My son was about to be born when he died and he talked to me every so often to see how the pregnancy was going," recalls Eblén Macari.

He grew up in a house near the port of Tampico (Tamaulipas), where his father had a shipyard.

From a very young age he was in contact with people from all over the world.

He was an alert and nervous guy.

"His youth consisted of three things: books, guitar and motorcycle," says Genoveva González, his sister and executor of his songs.

He remembers his brother always touching or arguing when his father found his marijuana.

Rockdrigo was an educated person, who studied psychology and read Sigmund Freud as well as science fiction novels.

“In my house there was no television because my father said that he intoxicated us… We had a library with 5,000 books.

We were always very impregnated by culture and art”, González expands.

Manifesto of the cave movement, written by Rodrigo González 'Rockdrigo'.

Courtesy

Heavily influenced by son huastengo, a style that mixes African, Spanish and indigenous roots of the Huasteca, he soon learned to improvise on melodies.

Years later, he would earn her the spotlight at parties every time someone pulled out a guitar.

He never studied music, but he had a great ear.

“A tango could touch you the same as a milonga”, says Fausto Arrellín.

“He was a very unique musician: creative, inventive, ironic, fantastic...”, adds Jorge Pantoja, who was Rockdrigo's representative.

“A myth was made that is an impressive madness”

On September 15, 1985, the newspaper

La Jornada

celebrated its first year of life with a concert in which Rockdrigo played.

It would be the last for him.

“We were going to go in to record the day of the tremor.

We arranged for the following Thursday, but we didn't see each other anymore,” recalls Arrellín.

A few days before the earthquake, Rockdrigo tried to contact Catana to invite him to play in a prison.

“I was on another matter and told him I couldn't go.

I called him at night and couldn't find him.

The day of the earthquake was terrible.

He called him, he called him, he called him, and the phone rang.

He never answered."

'Rockdrigo' González, on the roof of the building where he lived in the Juárez neighborhood, in Mexico City, in 1985. Paul Demeyere

Between the number 6 and 10 of the Brussels street there is a big gap, there where the building 8 should rise: the house of Rodrigo González.

Today it is a parking lot: a monument to nothingness, without plaques that remember it or tributes that mark that one of the most important composers of Mexican countercultural rock lived there.

The only memorial about him that exists in Mexico City is a statue in the Balderas metro station, to which the artist dedicated one of his most remembered songs.

Catana went to Brussels Street on the day of the earthquake.

—When we came looking for him in Colonia Juárez, we thought it was a war zone.

An era ended at that time.

The Arrellín brothers were also with him.

Fausto ventured through the rubble of what had been Rockdrigo's house.

There he saw the remains of the shipwreck: the coffee-colored guitar, the round glasses, his notebooks scribbled with songs.

"Everything was there, but I never found a script in which I had more than 300 songs typed," he laments.

Fausto was one of the first musicians to accompany Rockdrigo.

He knows firsthand what it was like to fight to win over the public when they started out in

funky holes

and party rooms.

“Then a myth was already made that is an impressive madness.

In Mexico there are three myths,” he laughs, “everyone went to [the festival] Avándaro, everyone founded the tianguis del Chopo [a countercultural market] and everyone met Rockdrigo.”

"After his death, many people appeared who said they knew him and deep down they were mythomaniacs who wanted to get closer to his work," agrees Catana.

“The Rockdrigo myth was made.

He was not very famous in his time, he became famous later, ”concludes Macari.

The statue in homage to 'Rockdrigo' González, in the Balderas metro station, Mexico City. Francisco Rodríguez (Cuartoscuro)

The conditions they had at the time were precarious.

Fausto Arrellín exemplifies it with the guitar used by Rockdrigo: “It couldn't be tuned, the pegs were swept, held with rubber bands”.

To electrify it, Edgar Arrellín placed a violin pickup on it: “The adhesive on the pickup wore off and they stuck it with chewing gum at every concert.”

Despite everything, Macari considers that the musician's work has transcended through time:

“We came from a period of Latin American effervescence, of protest songs, and he began to do blues.

He was like a freak.

Remaking Latin America was necessary, but it was also important to draw another vein from a Mexico that was not given much emphasis at that time.”

From Rockdrigo there are still 18 songs that have not seen the light, in the hands of music journalist Pepe Návar.

Both Návar and Genoveva González have confirmed to this newspaper that, after years of disagreements and struggles for rights, they have reached an agreement to publish them.

Návar hopes it will be sometime this year.

The last legacy of an artist with the aura of legend: that he began with a guitar through the streets of the Federal District and ended with popular tributes among the rubble of one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of Mexico.

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Source: elparis

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