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Articles Rafael Bassi with Eddie Palmieri in Barrranquilla. Photo: Rafael Bassi / Jacoviche Melomanía Archive. Rafael Bassi with Eddie Palmieri in Barrranquilla. Photo: Rafael Bassi / Jacoviche Melomanía Archive.

Bassilón

Se llamó Rafael Bassi Labarrera pero de su apellido derivó un apodo para el gozo, Bassilón. Porque en el Caribe vacilar nada tiene que ver con la duda o la incertidumbre, sino con la capacidad para disfrutar a plenitud la música y la vida. ¿No recuerdan Rico vacilón, el cha cha chá de Rosendo Ruiz que por los años 50 del pasado siglo hizo época entre los bailadores? De modo que Bassi fue Bassilón más temprano que lo se pueda imaginar y, para reforzar la idea, tuvo a bien llamar Rico Vacilón a un bar en Barranquilla que le dio más pérdidas que ganancias, de tantos amigos que se arrimaban a compartir aficiones musicales y echarse un trago a cuenta de casa entre pieza y pieza.

Cuando me dijeron que Bassi había muerto el pasado lunes 27 de abril pensé se trataba de una broma. Horas antes recibí el anuncio de su próxima tertulia radial, fijada para el sábado 2 de mayo, un diálogo sobre salsa y literatura con el escritor cubano Leonardo Padura —no solo es el narrador de novelas policiales; de su cabeza salió el guión de la formidable película Yo soy del son a la salsa, de Rigoberto López—, por lo que creí incombustible al colega y amigo. Además, la noticia provenía de Medellín; ignoraba que desde hace unos meses, Bassi se hallaba en la ciudad de los paisas y no en la costa atlántica.

His heart suddenly failed him, not his smile, nor his way of giving himself to our Caribbean music, a trait that will remain alive. Bassi was a Barranquillero from top to bottom. As a young man he studied Chemistry. Formulas and equations entered through sight; by the ear the bombs of Rafael Cortijo and his Combo, the boleros of Benny Moré and the sounds of the Sonora Matancera. Music ended up prevailing over Chemistry.

There is a concept that I like to claim: musicographer. If Musicology is science, Musicography is testimony. If the historical sciences cannot do without written or oral testimonial literature, chronologies, documents and whatever exponent the record of a fact or process contains for its further analysis, Musicology cannot look over the shoulder at Musicography, nor beings like Bassi, memorable ones who transcend the vanity of the data provided, of the specific experience, of the timely conversation, of what happened behind the diffusion of a record or a concert, of the timely confession, of the elitist itch of some music lovers collectors. In this category I include all those who write and work passionately for the memory and construction of meaning of music, but with seriousness, ethics and responsibility: critics, promoters, activists, chroniclers, communicators.

Rafael Bassi. Illustration: IPCC Cartagena.

Rafael Bassi. Illustration: IPCC Cartagena.

Bassi shared knowledge while looking for it from all possible sources. Aware of the possibilities of the mass media, on the radio he found an ecumenical and democratizing platform. Thus, he conceived venues such as C Concierto Caribe, Jazz en Clave Caribe and Vámonos de fiesta in Uninorte FM Estéreo, in Barranquilla. A random selection of the productions for this station allows us to seize the breadth and depth of their commitment: monographs on the new salsa orchestras in Europe, a tour of the masters of the tambora, the links of the song with the poetry of Federico García Lorca, and a critical review of the work of Rubén Blades.

Of course, in these and other endeavors, he had his sights first and foremost on the music of his country, and especially his closest environment, the Colombian Caribbean. There he was to consolidate the legends of Joe Arroyo, Pacho Galán, Esthercita Forero, Alejo Durán, Toto la Momposina and Lucho Bermúdez. Together with another countryman of the same lineage, Sergio Santana Archbold, he prepared the most complete book that can be conceived on an essential figure for Colombia and Cuba. He published it in a company created between the two, the Santo Bassilón publishing house, with a catalog of books on salsa and traditional Antillean music, put into circulation with more will than solvency.

La relación de Bassi con la vida musical cubana fue particular. Viajó varias veces a la Isla a la caza de discos, conciertos, libros y festivales, lo mismo en La Habana que en Santiago de Cuba. Para él resultó providencial la amistad profesional con Leonardo Acosta. Acerca de ello contó: “Ya conocía sus libros Del tambor al sintetizador and Elige tú, que canto yo, cuando en el Barranquijazz 99, tuve el privilegio de conocer personalmente a Don Leonardo. Pude conocer al gran ser humano, al hombre sencillo, y supe por él que lo que yo hacía era útil”.

For decades the Barranquillero promoted the classics Miguel Matamoros and Ignacio Piñeiro, the sones of Formell and Adalberto, the virtuosity of Niño Rivera and Pancho Amat, the songs of José Antonio Méndez and César Portillo de la Luz, the improvisations of Bebo and Chucho Valdés , and was up to date with the new generations of Cuban musicians. From Mexico he loved the interpretations of the old danzoneras and left pending, as he confessed to me months ago, a comparative study of the public's taste for the bolero tradition in Cuba, Colombia and Mexico.

We also honored Bassi in Cuba —José Dos Santos, whom I rightly consider a Cuban Bassi, recalled that the Colombian was responsible for many jazz players from the Island appearing at the Barranquijazz festival. Composer Edesio Alejandro mourned his loss. Promoter Alden González, who contributed a lot to the Septeto Santiaguero, joined the duel. Rosa Marquetti, a musicographer like him, will not forget that Bassi owed the decision to gather for the first time the exhaustive chronicles of the blog Desmemoriados, a kind of new and underground encyclopedia of Cuban music.

To this music lover, music producer and journalist, “captain of the troupe” - as many remember - we say goodbye also from these pages, with the certainty that his cultural legacy will continue to live in these lands, through other lovers of popular music like him.

Pedro de la Hoz More posts

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