Fernando Samalea, Charly García’s drummer who played with all the local rock stars and portrayed them forever

“I have already taken the precaution of having everything that has been happening since 2017 in chronological order, and I would tell you that I have about 600 more pages,” he says. Fernando Samalea. The drummer and bandoneon player is that methodical and that prolific: those 600 pages that he claims to have on his fingertips would be added to the 600 of What is a long play (2015), the 600 of While others sleep (2017) and the other 600 of Never is enough (2019), a kind of book in three volumes in which he recounts his life in music with Charly García, Gustavo Cerati, Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas, Andrés Calamaro and a very long etcetera that includes several of the most prominent artists of American and European popular music.

This specular autobiography (telling one’s own life, not from introspection, but from the story of how one connects with the exceptional personalities that surround him) not only promises to expand, but also does not end in the text: a few months ago edited Memories in fast motion, an anthology of photos that he himself took between 1990 and 2010 of all those aforementioned “monsters” in a backstage situation. Who long ago will have much to tell and show later: that seems to be Samalea’s guide to conduct, which – far from gloating over yesterday’s review – continues to generate even more pages to the eternal autobiography with solo albums, shows with young musicians, a not so amateur passion for cocktails, long motorcycle trips around the country and everything that your concern proposes.

Memories in fast motion: Anita Álvarez de Toledo, Gustavo Cerati and Leandro Fresco
Memories in fast motion: Anita Álvarez de Toledo, Gustavo Cerati and Leandro FrescoCourtesy Fernando Samalea

-How did you find yourself with those photos and how did they re-signify for you when you reviewed them again after so long?

-In truth, as I am very prone to read biographies and books about the artists of Montparnasse in the 20s or 30s in Paris, it was a bit what inspired me the most at this time. On a very different scale, I always felt that the time I was living was living with artists who sooner or later would leave a great trail with what they did. Then The fact of taking the photos was not so naive, because deep down I was dealing with beings that excited the popular unconscious, who were deeply embedded in the hearts of countless boys and girls of that time. And he knew they could be important to later generations, too. And as I had read The tango book by Horacio Ferrer and it came very packed with those books about young twenty-somethings of tango and all that I liked a lot, when I took the photos I knew that sooner or later that was going to be there. Hence, the antithesis of what a professional photographer would have done: they were left in a bag due to different moves, always from one place to another. But they were very good: when I digitized the negatives, most of them were in perfect condition. And basically the mobilization was the most cheesy thing that can be believed: love of life, love of saving each of the times that are happening, of that youth that inexorably remains in a moment there, in those particles of light, magically eternalized, that say a lot about what artists are at all times. Ultimately it was that: preserve. I think of it as a play that was left there, immobile, with everything it transmits.

Memories in fast motion: María Gabriela Epumer and Charly García
Memories in fast motion: María Gabriela Epumer and Charly GarcíaCourtesy Fernando Samalea

-The picturesque thing is that those people who for all of us are stars, for you are friends. Did you have any conscience of posterity while you were taking the photos?

-Of course! I always had it. At age 20, Charly gave me the chance to join his group. You have to adopt a certain naturalness and enter into a natural way of connection with that person. I was always the same: as you see me now, I am in a recording or before a concert. But it is also that: love for the past, for the future and for the present moment that is condemned to be past. And I also say it with a lot of humor, without wanting to give this solemnity. I did it in a very amateurish, analogical way, revealing myself, that magical thing of the image appearing on the submerged paper. But on the other hand also a lot of desire to elevate it to the mythological state. I also published three books in which my writing is also very photographic: I try to be very descriptive in terms of what you see. I like to take that attribute.

-Inadvertently you were assuming that place of reporter.

-Yes. Without solemnity, with humor, and it is not that I assumed it: it simply happened as I wish. There are people who perhaps like to walk things more and do not have any concern about writing or communicating them. I am not a famous artist to deserve an autobiography, but somehow I managed to write about my time. That my time is still this, because I have been hyperactive for four decades, of being lucky to always be with artists who leave that beautiful momentum in the different generations. Sometimes I feel kind of Doctor Who [serie de ciencia ficción de la BBC británica en la que el personaje principal viaja en el tiempo], because I saw four or five generations go by, the new trends, and I like that role. But it is not that I am awarded that role as a biographer, far from it. I live my musical present with great intensity, but also the surroundings: the cocktail bar, the motorcycle trips. And on the other hand, I really like to leave that testimony.

The bandoneon, the other passion of Fernando Samalea
The bandoneon, the other passion of Fernando SamaleaValeria Furman

-You always emphasize that you are an amateur photographer. Did it give you any advantage not having all the background of a professional and not being so aware of the technical?

-I knew more or less how to handle the shutter, focus, look for the light, the ASAs on the roll … I had very basic principles that I always had to keep in mind, because the Canon AE1 camera that I used is mostly analog. But on the other hand It was never a photoshoot, because we were traveling or filming or having a run at the Roxy at seven in the morning. So maybe the advantage was that at no time were the artists that I portrayed in a photo session for something, it was simply a record. And in a time when the current facility was not there, where most people have a phone and can take a photo, there was a bit more eccentric air in the fact of taking a camera out of a backpack, removing the cap, point. It had a charm.

-Do you see in your photos of your friends things that in those of others are not? Did they lower their guard with you?

-Those same artists have been photographed by excellent photographers over time and I cannot claim any role in particular. The only thing I can say is that: it was not a photoshoot. So what is different is that we were just talking. I have a very nice photo of a moment between Charly and Spinetta, and technically very bad because there was very little light in La Diosa Salvaje (Luis Alberto Spinetta’s studio) and of course I shot just like that, but those incredible moments at dawn in the that suddenly it was like a lightning strike. Between Charly and Spinetta there was that thing of beautiful complicity and they were both head to head, almost touching, embracing, talking to each other with such marvelous wit … and of course there is something that for me is a great privilege to click there. , and that’s why I wanted to show it.

Cover and back cover of Memories in rapid camera, by Fernando Samalea
Cover and back cover of Memories in rapid camera, by Fernando SamaleaCourtesy Fernando Samalea

-Did you impose any aesthetic rules on yourself when taking the photos or when choosing?

-No, whatever. And although the book is very extensive and has more than 200 photographs, many remained unpublished, a selection had to be made. I liked the idea that the book was nice, made of good photographic paper, but at the same time that it was not unattainable but rather rocker. Something that is not too far from most people who consume music.

-Do you understand it as a complement to textbooks?

-There may be something but it was not intended as a complement. It is for music lovers. I also consider myself public. I myself can enjoy the book, apart from the fact that I am in some photos because I use the automatic in group photos. They are testimonies of the camaraderie that existed. At first it was for me and then Roque Di Pietro and Andrés Galante appeared [de la editorial Vademécum y la disquería y sello RGS] and they gave me the chance to publish it, when today photo books are very few. Many of the great Argentine rock photographers do not have published photo books. I feel a bit stranded in the field but at the same time it was never my intention to occupy a place or award myself anything. I was fond of that time that I portray and the artists, who are friends. And inevitably save the memories of some who are no longer here: I also have that distaste of seeing that several people who are in the photographs are no longer here. But it was a way of winking at his mischievousness: Seeing María Gabriela (Epumer) dancing with all her smile is the illusion of having her there again.

-The books are an inevitable trip to the past. How do you get along with your own nostalgia?

-It’s easy because I still haven’t had a present in which I long for the past. Beyond the fact that there may be times more of “glory” than others, I keep inventing new adventures. I am lucky to do things not only in Argentina but also in France, in Spain, in the United States, in Brazil. I indulge in many likes to the extent that my desire to do things does not wane. But I carry nostalgia just as anyone who thinks about it could carry it. I already know that there is less time left behind than it is behind and it also has a poetic side: at some point it will end and it is good that this is the case because it is the law we knew when we were children when we learned that life is not eternal.

Hilda Lizarazu portrayed by Fernando Samalea
Hilda Lizarazu portrayed by Fernando SamaleaCourtesy Fernando Samalea

-The key not to get lost in nostalgia would be to stay current. You don’t stop working with young people.

-I played with Chinese Bandalos. With Michelle Bliman I also play often. It has a very youthful band and it is my opportunity to play that neo soul, a little hip hop, a little jazz, and also to discover those guys in their twenties with so much musical knowledge. I am moved by all the things that may come, as well as mythologically exalting all the things that happened.

-Being the musician who played with everyone, do you have difficulties dealing with the stars?

-For me it was always natural. I don’t see it as something that has cost me a lot because it was and continues to be the way I relate to music. There could be more difficulties in certain specific cases but very intimate things that do not weigh down in the general film. On the contrary: I am grateful for the chance to be there playing and living side by side with those artists who dictate the rules and who leave a wonderful legacy. What else to ask for.

-The genius can be very intense.

-Yes, of course, a lot of intensity. And at times you can also wish for a bit of silence or one of those more experimental trips with more nature, or the Caribbean beaches to which rock has taken me. Rock made me know Latin America. All those epicurean privileges. It has something very hedonistic to be in the world of rock. The important thing is to keep the smile, an adventurous spirit and not be intimidated by insignificance that are a bit innate to the human being. The rock life, hopefully, is a royal privilege.

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Tammy Sewell is our Writer and Social at Tammy loves sports, she writes our celebrities news. She spends time browsing through several celebs news sources as well the Instagram. Email: Phone: +1 513-209-1700

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