Argentinean Fidel Nadal has embarked on a rather interesting music journey. Rooting this musical expeditions as the main vocalist for the prominent Buenos Aires-based punk/ska band Todos Tus Muertos, he’s also pioneered reggae en español in his native country. He was also sought by the fictitious but well known Mano Negra (for the kids who don’t know, it’s Manu Chao‘s group before going solo) to record what came to be the worldly acclaimed Casa Babylon, and even went on to influence iconic groups such as Sublime and Rage Against the Machine.
Today, we expect no less from this revered Rastafarian artist. With two Latin Grammy nominations under his belly for Best Alternative Album Forever Together and a killer Best Alternative Song “Te Robaste Mi Corazón,” Fidel Nadal holds his dreaded-head high as he undertakes the bull by the horns and continues to inspire solidarity, love, movement and unification via reggae. In this long-distance conversation, Fidel talks about calypso and reggae as a tool of rebellion for progress, the Rasta spurt of his motherland, and the next creative steps for this artist.
How did the evolution of your Latin Grammy nominated album “Forever Together” began?
When I began the concept of my album Forever Together, I sought to approach it the same way as my previous album International Love, since we had great success with it and really enjoyed the process of it. So when I embarked on this album, I found it to be very new in terms of the music and the songs — it began to grow with its own unique sound.
What comes to mind when you write?
It’s something that looks like a matrix. Sometimes one begins to write a letter on a piece of paper and other times the ideas just come to mind, then you have to run so you won’t forget them. Sometimes I release one of those letters on the recording studio and at times I have to recite it counterclockwise. Anything can happen when writing.
You come from a family of academics. Did you ever considered pursuing academia as well or you knew music was your calling?
Well, of course my parents wanted me to continue my studies and attend the university and whatnot, so I set off to do that. And then music crossed my path and here I am. So in that aspect, it’s a little bit of both, but when times passes by and my family begun to see my achievements in music and all other things, they started to accept and really like what I do. I feel that they were also happy that their son took the music route.
I THEN BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND A
DIFFERENT FORM OF REBELLION THROUGH REGGAE MUSIC.
THIS FASCINATED ME AND DROVE ME CRAZY.
Your previous band Todos Tus Muertos was one of the pioneering bands of reggae/punk en español in the mid ‘80s. In your experience, how has reggae evolved in Argentina?
I feel that in these periods, it evolved quite a lot and throughout the years, it came to be something that was underground to now “overground,” to put it in those words. It when through being something occult formed by a group of people and it began to grow became from well-known to very famous. Today it is something big, and I think it was a positive growth, and nowadays I feel reggae has its place in Argentina.
A while ago, you’ve recorded with the legendary Mano Negra. How was that experience?
That was unforgettable, because first of all, I saw it from the point of few of a fanatic. From seeking them, to meeting them, and well, we became really good friends here in Buenos Aires. They invited me to open up for them when they played here for the first time. From there, a few months after they called me from Paris, France to record what became their most acclaimed album Casa Babylon and so I went there, very happy with this large goal to record one song, and then that became one, two, three, four recorded songs. So I stayed to form part of the band and we began a tour and played everywhere, so it was very beautiful for me.
Today, is there anyone you wish to collaborate who you have not yet?
There are many artists to name to tell you the truth. Collaborations are always something really positive because of the mixing of style. Many times, styles of different music can be combined in such a way and result to something good. That’s always an enriching experience. So I would like to collaborate with artists of different styles because that’s always something fun. You never know how the end results will turn out. So when you’re listening to the characteristics of each artist, depending on your style, it’s usually always interesting.
Tell me, what originally lured you into reggae?
It first began when all of Peter Tosh’s albums made it to Argentina. But in truth, what first brought me to it was calypso, which my parents listened to a lot. Artists like Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Don Elliot, etc. And then I began to understand a different form of rebellion through music, like Peter Tosh did very well of — rebellion from underneath. This kind of music fascinated me; it drove me crazy. So I began to investigate the meaning of those English lyrics, since I didn’t understand any English at the time – I was 12 years old. So on this search, the lyrics, like in calypso, this all began forming and making sense in reggae music.
How’s the rasta movement or Rastafarianism in Argentina?
It’s very full, there are rastas of all different colors, languages. So today in Argentina, there is a heavy movement.
A few months ago, you performed at Ensenada, Baja California’s Culture Beat. Makeda “Dread” who founded that center as well as WorldBeat Center in San Diego, was the first to bring reggae into that border region. How’s your relationship with her?
We know each other about ten years, when I went to play in California. We were introduced there and a great friendship was formed. She’s always shown up when I’ve performed in places like Brick by Brick. So when I’ve played in her venues or around, there’s always an incredible communication between us.
And now, you’re nominated for two Latin Grammys. Congratulations. How do you feel? Were you expecting this?
Well, I’m really happy because this is of course something really good for my career and to what I dedicate myself to. It’s an important recognition, and it’s something really sought of and wished for as an artists. It’s the first time that I’ve been nominated for a Latin Grammy and for something reggae as well. So yes, I feel really happy.
So what’s the next artistic step for you?
I’ve been planning a new album, because a few songs have stayed under the drawer that I now want to let out into the light. I maintain active making and combining songs, so I am ready to go to Vegas and after that, I go to Mexico for the rest of November to play in places like Tijuana, Monterrey, Mexico City, Guadalajara and others.
Watch Fidel Nadal’s music video “Te Robaste Mi Corazón” — his Latin Grammy nominated latest single.