Artist Profiles: Rubén Rada

Rubén Rada

Known to his many friends and fans simply as ‘Rada,’ Rubén Omár Rada Silva was born July 17, 1943 was born in Montevideo, Uruguay.

As a boy, he would sing for the ticket takers at the neighborhood movie theater. They allowed him to get in and he would learn the songs from the movies. When he was asked for more he ended up having to learn Mexican songs, tangos, all kinds of music.

Rada’s first professional experience was as a singer for a radio show doing cover songs and imitations of famous international singers. During carnival he would sing with the family’s comparsa Morenada during the Montevideo carnival. His nickname at that time was “Zapatito” (Little Shoe).

He was only thirteen when he met some young jazz musicians in a bus. It was the Fatorusso brothers. He was invited to join the Dixieland band where they played in, the Hot Blowers. Rada did impersonations of Louis Armstrong and other black singers. He stayed with them for seven years.

In 1964 he formed El Kinto. It was an innovative band that combined native candombe rhythms with influences from the Beatles, something known as candombe beat, with electric guitars, congas and other instruments. El Kinto wasn’t a moneymaker and hard times led Rada to seek fortune in Peru, where he was able to make a good living to support his family.

He also spent some time in Italy and Argentina. In Argentina he recorded his first solo album which included a national hit “Las Manzanas”. He also performed with one of the leading bands of the time, the Shakers. And he played a role in the musical “Hair.”

Rada finally returned to Uruguay where he found work as a singer and comedian. He also joined a band called Totem with whom he recorded 2 albums. It became one of Uruguay’s most popular bands combining candombe with melodic rock. Rada left the band after three years and recorded an album, S.O.S with Argentine musicians in Buenos Aires. After that he returned to his nomadic life touring throughout Europe with Benny Izaguirre.
Rada sent some his songs on cassette to the Fatorusso brothers who were then living in the United States, working with Brazilian jazz fusion musicians Airto Moreira and his wife Flora Purim. The Fatorussos also had a fusion band called Opa that many still consider one of South America’s best.

Hugo Fatorusso asked Rada to travel to the United States to participate in Opa’s second album, Magic Time. Rada was delighted because he was really impressed with the band. Magic Time combined Uruguayan afro-rhythms with jazz and rock and it was recorded in Spanish. Rada admits that this is one of the best musical works he has ever done.

When his visa expired, Rada moved to Argentina where he formed La Banda. He also recorded an album with the Fatorusso brothers who were back in South America under the name Otros Shakers. Osvaldo Fatorusso stayed in Uruguay collaborating with Rada and producing other artists. La Banda disbanded shortly after recording its first album. Rada formed a new band called La Rada. Even though it was formed by great musicians the band also split after the first album. That’s when Rada formed one of his most long-standing bands together with Ricardo Lew and Osvaldo Fatorusso. They recorded an album titled “En Familia” which Rada considers one of his best solo works. There was also a live album that Rada is not very proud of because it was not a good performance and some of the music is out of key.

Rubén Rada – Photo by Horatio Sbaraglia

From 1991 to 1995 Rada lived in Mexico. He worked on several projects while he was there. One of the top producers of hit pop songs for Mexico and Central America recorded an album under the title Rada Factory. The album never came out because of disagreements between the producer and the label.
Rada toured Spanish America and Europe as a member of Tania Libertad’s band. In 1994 he traveled to the United States to record an album titled Rada Music for Big World, an independent jazz and world music label. Hugo Fattoruso was involved as co-producer. Rada and his wife felt homesick so they moved back to Uruguay.
Since then he has been involved in numerous projects and recordings. Botijas Band with Rubén Rada features Rada collaborating with very young musicians. As a percussionist, Rada has few equals. He has had a dramatic effect on the evolution of modern candombe mixing it with many other musical styles and instruments not traditionally used within the genre.
Rada’s compositions are fresh and moving showing the influence of all his favoritesfrom Ray Charles to The Beatles Louis Armstrong to Carlos Gardel you’ll find them all in Rada’s gifted songs. His tunes show you he’s not afraid to experiment and approach different styles blending jazz world music funk pop tango rock and (of course) candombe. Rada is able to do practically anything with his voice from singing a soothing ballad to sounding like all his favorite characters from Uruguay’s carnival to mimicking the sounds of a trombone trumpet and other musical instruments to sounds that are simply beyond description.
In addition to his to his musicianship and skill as a composer Rada’s lyrics deliver a strong message from funny to serious from absurd to sarcastic. Rada started his own record label Zapatitodiscos, in 2002.

Discography:

S.O.S. (1974)
Magic Time” with Opa (Milestone 1977)
La Banda (198)
La Rada (1981)
En Familia (1982)
La Cosa se Pone Negra (1983)
Adar Nebur (1984)
La Yapla Mata (1986)
Siete Vidas (1987)
Pa´ Los Uruguayos (Melopea CDM 2 1989)
Las Aventuras de Ruben Rada y Litto Nebbia (Melopea CDMSE 53 199)
En Blanco y Negro – Las Aventuras de Fattoruso y Rada (Melopea, 1991)
Terapia de Murga (Melopea, 1991)
Concierto por la vida (1994)
Radeces (Ayua, CD)
Botijas Band (1996)
Montevideo (Big World 1997)
Montevideo 2 Miscelanea Negra (Ayui/Tacuabe, 1997)
Black (Negro) (Polygram)
Quien va a cantar (2000)
Alegre Caballero (Zapatito Discos Discos 2002)
Rubenra (Zapatito Discos 2004)
Candombe Jazz Tour (EMI 2005)
Richie Silver (EMI, 2006)
Varsovia, with Javier Malosetti (Zapatito Discos/Oday 2007)
Bailongo (S-Music 2008)
Fan (MMG 2009)
Confidence Rada Instrumental (S-Music, 2011)
Tango, milonga y candombe (MMG, 2015)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.
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