Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler triumphed at this yr’s Latin Grammys, profitable not one, however two awards for his elegant folk-pop ballad, “Telefonía.” The lead single off his 2017 album, Salvavidas de Hielo, “Telefonía” was honored for each Song of the Year, and probably the most coveted award of the night time, Record of the Year.
The Latin Grammys have a well-documented historical past of shirking city artists for extra conventional ones, particularly veterans. This yr the Latin Recording Academy bestowed the glory of Person of the Year to alt-rock heroes Maná; and rewarded Mexican pop icon (and persistent no-show) Luis Miguel with two awards for Album of the Year and Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album. Still, few anticipated the Academy to snub J Balvin, Colombian ambassador of reggaeton, for Record of the Year — a class during which he was nominated twice, for songs “X” and “Mi Gente.”
Drexler’s win left many viewers scratching their heads. But it left others heralding the victory of what they deem respectable music over “Los malos,” as Drexler says wryly, “los reggaetoneros.” Drexler was fast to take down such elitism in his acceptance speech that night time: “I’ve no enemies in music,” he proclaimed, award in hand.
“I’ve listened to plenty of music over time,” Drexler tells Rolling Stone on a cellphone name from his house in Madrid. “I’ve witnessed prejudice in opposition to many genres. When I used to be a teen, it was disco. It was rock. I like reggaeton — I like to bop to reggaeton. There’s a sensuality to it that I like. It makes me unhappy that anybody thinks that I’m an instance of mental superiority [over reggaeton].”
“My enemies will not be in music,” he continues. “My enemies are the corrupt, the illiberal, the killers of the world.”
Born and raised in Uruguay, Drexler has been an outspoken champion of human rights, each in his music and in his private life. Prejudice in opposition to genres, he finds, echoes social prejudices akin to racism, sexism and xenophobia. The son of a German Jew who fled the Nazis, Drexler and his household sought refuge in Israel within the Seventies, after a far-right army dictatorship took maintain in Uruguay and threatened their security. “When I sense a prejudice in opposition to one other group, I’ve to analyze it and denounce it,” he says.
Following within the footsteps of his dad and mom, each medical doctors, Drexler returned to Uruguay as an grownup and studied drugs within the capital of Montevideo. He toughed it out as an ear, nostril and throat specialist for just a few years earlier than he lastly surrendered to his dream of being a rock star at 30. The profession shift proved effectively price it: 13 studio albums in, he’s garnered an equal variety of accolades for his music, together with 5 Latin Grammys and one Academy Award.
Drexler received his first Academy Award for the “Al Otro Lado del Río” (“The Other Side of the River”), which he wrote because the closing observe for 2005 Ché Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries. At the time, Drexler was recognized to few outdoors the Spanish-speaking world, however his tune was the primary Spanish-language tune within the Academy’s historical past to win Best Original Song. Although Drexler sang the tune himself, he was not invited to carry out on the 2005 Academy Awards — Anglophone crossover stars Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana carried out the observe in his stead.
In spite of all its controversy, this yr’s Latin Grammys, by comparability, went way more easily for the artist. He says that his profitable tune, “Telefonía” — which interprets to “Telephony,” a considerably implicit pun — speaks to the persistence of the human need for connection, and what we’ll do to realize any semblance of it. “Blessed every wave, every cable/Blessed radiation of the antennas,” he sings, “As lengthy as your voice speaks to me.”
“We have at all times wished to speak,” he says. “We made marks on caves so they might be discovered 60,000 years later. The medium modifications, nevertheless it’s the identical message again and again.
“[‘Telefonía’] was born as a brief voice message,” he continues, “the form of message you write with out fascinated about it. … After two glasses of wine, if you suppose you’re dropping contact with anyone. You see an individual’s identify in your phone display screen and you’ve got this robust need — you need to specific your love in probably the most intense method. So I recorded this and despatched this to the individual,” he says. Then he takes a pause — “It was a sexual be aware for my spouse,” he professes with a chuckle. “I put it to a Beatles-like bass line and the tune organically took form.”
An completely guitar-driven album, from its intricate melodies to its percussive parts, Salvavidas de Hielo options friends akin to Mon Laferte, Natalia Lafourcade and DJ-producer Nicola Cruz. The result’s a group of nimbly crafted songs, imparting each candy nothings and mighty classes, from a poetic critique to world assaults on migrants (“Movimiento”) to a lament for an earth tormented by world warming (“Despedir a los Glaciares”).
“I used the idea by Igor Stravinsky: ‘the extra I restrict myself, the extra I free myself,’” Drexler says of his method. “I wished to limit some elements of my music, to make different elements of the music develop and explode. Because limitations are actually necessary allies of the inventive course of: They oblige you to search for options in sudden locations.
“It’s additionally a fractal examine of the guitar,” he continues. “Fractal, that means, looking for the infinite throughout the restricted. Between the numbers one and two, there are infinite numbers. That’s what I wished to do with the guitar — open it up and get to the microscopic particulars of its sound.”
True to Drexler’s scientific and inquisitive method to his music, he seems like Latin music and id, in all its range, should evolve with the occasions. Attitudes of worry, whether or not of city music, or of complete teams of individuals, stand in the best way of progress. “Traditional Latin American music is nice,” Drexler continues. “But the worst strategy to deal with Latin America is by romanticized, nostalgic concepts of our continent. You know, Los Saicos began punk in Peru in 1965! Over 10 years earlier than the Sex Pistols did. We have a lot extra to present than our previous — we, too, form the longer term. We are the plant, not solely the roots.”
So what’s subsequent for Jorge Drexler? After two years of touring in help of Salvavidas, the singer solely has plans to relaxation at house in Madrid. Yet following his win, he says two totally different cellular corporations have since approached him with affords to make use of “Telefonía” in commercials. The singer-songwriter says, with fun, that they’re lacking the purpose.
“You know the way ‘Born in the usA.’ was utilized by the Bush marketing campaign?” Drexler says. “It’s … not probably the most constructive tune. People should study to learn between the traces.”