by Kevin Vaughn

Everybody looked at me like I had committed a mortal sin the day that I admitted that I had never seen Fuerza Bruta. The whole world had seen the show, and me, living in its birthplace for two years (a large chunk of those two years occupied by an extended showing at the CC Recoleta) had never seen the production that has toured the entire globe. Until last month when I got to check it out during its quick run at Luna Park.

Fuerza Bruta begins with a small introduction, ““Ladies and gentlemen, everything that happens here is real. There are no sets. There are no theatrical conventions. Everything has a role in the action. That means you too. So get ready.”

In an instant I was transformed into a child. I jumped, danced, screamed, and smiled, reacting together with a crowd of hundreds of people to the sensory explosion that unified us. I left the stadium completely elated, wet and covered in confetti and becoming the focus of quite a few stares on the subway ride home.

But Gaby Kerpel´s career does not begin or end with his work as a composer for Fuerza Bruta. His work spans a long and varied 25 years of projects, beginning in experimental theater and diving into a deep musical exploration of Northern folklore and modern technologies. In order to prepare myself for the CC Rojas weekend dedicated to Kerpel, aptly named Universo Kerpel, I got together with Kerpel to learn more.

You´ve been involved in a lot of different projects over the last 25 years, could you give us a brief rundown of your career beginning with La Organización Negra all the way to Terraplén ?

Brief ? 25 years ? Wow how difficult.

Basically La Organización Negra began in 1985 and I discovered a new way to make music alongside an extreme stimulant, in this case the theater, how to compose music. That was an experience that helped me with my own projects outside of theater.

I continued with the Organización until 1992 with two last shows, learning and playing live shows. Later on part of that group became De La Guarda, which had a spirit that was even more rowdy than LON. That’s when I began to explore folk music from around the world and obviously from within Argentina. I thought it was really interesting and innovative to make Argentine folk music with technology. Gustavo Santaolalla produced a CD for De La Guarda with Island Records, and at the same time I shared with him my ideas about Argentine folklore. He really liked the idea and gave me the incentive with it until I finished Carnabalito in 2001, that was released under Nonesuch Records.

With DLG I went all over the world. I learned a lot about music, and was able to get new instruments. After DLG separated Fuerza Bruta was born. I started exploring electronic music more, and perfecting the ideas behind dance for the floor. In 2008 I began King Coya, a DJ project that I just want to have fun with ! It’s a lot different from my solo shows, which require a lot of effort to pull together. With Zizek, King Coya has grown, we´ve remixed the music, and released Cumbias de Villa Donde.

How has the art scene changed in Buenos Aires over the last 25 years?

Today music is a lot more present than it was 25 years ago. I suppose it has a lot to do with the internet and technology being so available. That totally changes it’s importance in society.

How would you like for it to develop?

I think it´s really interesting that right now there is a lot of interest in folklore. I think that it´s got a really cool future ahead of it. And it´s happening all over Latin America. That´s the future for me.

You work simultaneously on a number of musical projects (Fuerza Bruta, King Coya, Terraplén), how do you separate one project from the other ? Does there exist something that unifies all the projects ?

The variety of projects allows that each one create something different but at the same time feeds the other. That´s why something like Universo Kerpel is great because it allows me to step back and look at everything.

Since 1985 I´ve been developing my music with technology as an instrument, a creative tool that is constantly changing, that encourages me a lot. I think that looking at folklore this way, looking at the roots, it makes it even more interesting because you put a magnifying glass up to it´s textures and primitive rhythms.

With regards to Terraplén, that was Santaolla´s idea that we put together with Diego Vaner, Daniel Martin and some others. It´s folklore and electronic music that´s just a little different from what I do as a soloist, a little less experimental maybe, but with the support of a lot of artists.

Where´s the name King Coya come from ?

The name is an imaginary personality like all of those masters of dub and reggae, but for cumbia.

Coming from Buenos Aires, at what point did you discover music from Northern Argentina and Bolivia ? And being a member of the ZZK collective, where do you see that movement going ?

I don´t remember exactly when I discovered music from Bolivia, but it´s really similar to music from Northern Argentina, which I´ve been familiar with for a really long time. With Carnavalito there is a lot of rhythm and distinct folkloric expressions. I think that ZZK has an attractive future. Not just for the artists but also for it´s creators and the attention it gets around the world.

Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with Diqui James and Fuerza Bruta ?

Fuerza Bruta was born after Diqui James decided to split from his De La Guarda partner Pichon Baldinu. I feel very related to them both, after so many years of working together we understand each other really well. We share a lot of artistic ideas, and we compliment each other well during the creation of a project. Obviously that happens differently with the two guys. I`ve been working with Diqui on Fuerza Bruta since 2005, and I still do things with Pichon. He´s actually going to open a new show in September at the Recoleta.

How do you guys compose that project, music first then choreography, viceversa, or do they evolve together?

The music and the visuals grow together, I try different things and we go on evolving things at the rehearsals.

This weekend is completely dedicated to you, how does that make you feel? What do we have to look forward to?

This weekend at the Rojas we´ll be seeing a lot of teatrical works. DLG´s project Doma is going to be a full orquestrated musical, without any folklore elements, and a band with more than 20 musicians. Alejandro Teran is leading that, the arrangements, and I continue to feel surprised by the whole thing. We´re going to go down a road less explored, although a really interesting road, a little more arduous too because of the involvement of so many different musicians.

There are going to be lots of workshops and talks. And at night there will be shows, my solo techno set program, Terraplén, La Yegros which is produced by King coya and Barbarita Palacios who is a singer in Terraplén. And Friday there will be a little party for the opening with Chancha via Circuito from Zizek and Diego Chemes as the VJ.

But even with so many activities, I´m sure something is being left out. Maybe next time…