I landed in Buenos Aires and proceeded to Customs. As usual, the lines leading to customs were brutal. I waddled on line dragging my carry-on bag behind me like an unwanted appendage. The memory of my lost guitar at the Bangkok Airport, near the Chao Phraya Waterway, missing clothes bags in Sweden and countless airport/custom blunders filled my thoughts. Finally, I was next in line to meet with an agent. I approached the Customs stall cautiously, conscious of the red line at my feet and fighting the uncontrollable desire to lean on the counter. I handed over my passport and papers to a young man with a serious demeanor. He looked over my credentials then, he looked at me. He finally greeted me with the usual question.
“And what brings you to Buenos Aires Mr. Alomar? He asked, followed by the dreaded follow up. “Are you here on business or pleasure?”
For anyone who has ever traveled out of the country, this is how the system works. If you are there to “work” you have to get a work visa. I didn’t have time for all of that, so to cut time I just replied with my usual response.
“Oh, pleasure. I’m just here to visit with some friends.” The agent leaned in and like a teacher peering over his glasses, to set a student straight he replied.
“Mr. Alomar, I know who you are and why you are here. I will be at that concert tomorrow to see you perform with Soda Stereo. Good Luck.” He looked at me with knowing eyes and I let out a huge grin. I was beginning to get the idea now, about how important this concert was going to be.
The next night I found myself at a rehearsal studio filled with other musicians. It seemed that the concept for the concert was simple. It was to have the instrumentalist that performed on any given song, play on their song for the show. It seems I was there to play on my song, “La Cupula”. but for me it was much more. It was a chance to see my old friends, now older with children and lives that I knew nothing about.
When they entered the room and saw me, the smiles that ensued and hugs that followed forced everyone to stop what they were doing and simply take it all in. It was more like a family reunion. Me a little older, Gustavo gruff and unshaven after long touring, in stark contrast Zeta shaved clean with bald head glistening, reflecting every light bulb in the room, and Charly now a grown man with a smile that clearly showed his years of experience and pleasure.
The night of the show the packed audience was explosive, receptive and appreciative. They sang along with every song, lit their lighters on cue and swayed in unison to the slow songs. Finally, I could hear my name coming from the loudspeakers as Gustavo announced my approach. I’ll tell you this, there is nothing like the roar of fans as they finally see their chosen band perform for the last time. Every song meant something to each of them. When they graduated, fell in love, when they married, had children, had their hearts broken, divorced and even when they saw the passing of their friends. Every song, every word, at this moment, at this time meant something … maybe even, everything.
“Ladies and Gentlemen …Carlos Alomar!!!!!!” Gustavo Cerrati announced as I walked on stage. The roadie handing me my guitar chord and the monitor engineer turning my volume up in the monitors. One…Two…Three… Four…
“La Cupula” began as I felt the blood rush to my ears and I entered the trance-like-state that consumes every performing musician. I played my solo (although I do not remember any part of it), I smiled for the whole show, not just because I played well, but because it always amazes me how much better musicians get with age. Gustavo, Zeta and Charlie, not only played every note that we had rehearsed and practiced for weeks 20 years ago, but added notes that could only come from years of experience and techniques learned over the many years they toured together. It was glorious, the closest thing to heaven that a musical jam could be. After the show we partied deep into the night, like it would never end, but we all knew that not only would the party end, but that our odyssey which had begun together some 20 years ago would also come to an end. And that night as I slept I knew, that I would wake up to a world without Soda Stereo.
Years after Soda Stereo, I still use the same criteria for accepting production request. Let’s hear all your new songs. Are you a close knitted band? Can you execute any musical acrobatic that I ask for? Will you stay together long enough for you to affect the world. I guess the lessons learned with Soda Stereo run deep and are not easily forgotten.
In May of 2010 I found out through the Internet that Gustavo Cerrati had suffered a stroke, and had entered into a coma. My heart stopped as I choked back a tear. A few years earlier in 2003, another of my friends the great R&B singer Luther Vandross had also suffered a stroke. I understood the pain and loss to his family and to his fans, all too well.
Yet another voice of our times was silenced.
As I reflect on the music industry in the advent of the new millennium there are many bands willing, and I think able to pick up the banner where Soda Stereo left off. And yet, I worry that the new bands will not rise in the same way as Soda Stereo did. The big Multi-National companies have a very narrow and tentative attitude about signing, marketing and promoting new bands. The amount of venues that promote live music are disappearing yearly and the rampant disregard for royalties via pirating threaten to shorten the life of any aspiring band. A short while ago there was a huge controversy regarding S.O.P.A (Stop Online Piracy Act) that intends to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property. Bono, lead singer of U2, has publically stated that he supports this law, whereas other artists feel the opposite way.
As all this continues and sides are taken, Gustavo Cerrati Sleeps, his coma leaving him oblivious to the outcome of all that surrounds us. Will his legacy via his royalties go to his family and heirs or will it just be left unattended as the Pirates rape and pilfer all of his offerings.
I went to my archives and resurrected the original lyrics for the Rap to “En El Borde’ (On the Edge)”. It surprisingly offers us an answer to this question. I leave it for you to decide.
“Well I’m on the edge and I just don’t know
if you’ll find me here or you’ll find me there.
Cause things are really taking a turn,
and I just don’t know, if I will be burned…”
“No hablare del final….”
“Excerpt from “En El Borde”
Carlos Alomar continues his odyssey on the guitar recording and performing with todays most well know artist as well as being the Director of the Sound Synthesis Research Center at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey