Rock this Way: Paraguayan Music Trying to Hit High Note

Rock this Way: Paraguayan Music Trying to Hit High Note

By Dialogo
April 30, 2010

Rolando Chaparro grimaces as he whips the crowd into a frenzy with the powerful sounds created by furiously flicking his pick across the strings of his electric guitar during the song “Kamba King.” But as Chaparro whips out chord after chord with stunning clarity, this much is clear: If Chaparro isn’t the biggest driving force behind the emergence of Paraguayan rock, he’s definitely in the discussion. Why? Because he constantly incorporates his country’s musical roots into his records and concerts. His 2005 live album “Afropolca” put a contemporary spin on old classics to keep them relevant. Chaparro, however, also is a realist. He knows Paraguayan rock is going through a rebuilding process and it could take years – maybe even decades – for the country’s music to infiltrate foreign markets. “National rock is going through a good musical moment; I can see it quite clearly,” he said. “Unfortunately, during the last few years there has not been an important festival to help the growth of groups. At one time, Pilsen Rock was able to gather about 80,000 people at its annual music festival.” Chaparro said his country lacks the abundance of record labels and producers prevalent in other countries. “The public is there,” he said. “But a greater structure is what’s missing. Quality is optimal, excellent, and the professionalism is higher now. One can see an evolution in musicians.” The sweet sounds of rock bands such as Pro Rock Ensamble, Kaos, Faro Callejero, Skoff, Ni los perros, Deliverans, Enemigos de la Klase and Funeral fueled the country’s music scene in the 1980s and 1990s. But at the turn of the century, a movement that began in Asunción began to spread its heavy metal and pop rock wings. Bands such as Área 69, Revólber, Pipa para tabaco, Flou, Gaia, Paiko, La Secreta, Orcháblex, Vecindad Autopsia, Gent, Peter Punk, The Profane and Slow Agony have tried to put their country on the musical map. But Paiko is leading the way. The group has toured South America several times and played in Europe. Last December, Paiko will celebrate ten years of infusing Latin American pop rock with its harmonies. “Before, national rock was very under and then it turned massive,” said Enrique Zayas, lead singer for Paiko. “Now, there are tours around the country’s cities, more songs are played on the radio, and there is a bigger movement as far as the public is concerned.” Crowds are flocking to concerts and instead of creating fan clubs to cheer for artists such as Nickelback or Linkin Park, they are worshipping their homegrown idols by wearing their merchandise – an act unthinkable just a few years ago. “Before, there was a certain disdain for national rock and now that has changed,” said Felipe Vallejos, who plays guitar for the band El Tiempo. “On the contrary, young people feel proud of what is ours, and the public identifies so much with their favorite band.” The emergence of local record label “Kamikaze” has played an important role in expanding the country’s rock scene. It’s provided a place where aspiring – and proven – artists can make music and make sure their compact discs reach the masses. “We made local media cover our concerts, but it would be nice if radios would provide more information, explanations of which national group the song they are broadcasting belongs to,” Vallejos said. “In television, there is almost no space for Paraguayan rock.” Still, Paraguayan music has to experience a tremendous growth if it’s to be mentioned in the same breath as the music of Brazil, Argentina and Chile. “There are a lot of promising groups and everything is getting better,” Zayas said. “To continue working and improving is what we need to cross beyond our borders. I am sure that any time now there will be a breaking opportunity for Paraguayan rock groups to become known throughout the world.”
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