Veteran Bogota rock band Aterciopelados welcomes the end of the Uribe presidency, to put it mildly. The band, which often weaves its activism through its songs, recently spoke to Colombia Reports about the “feudal and colonial” country that they are trying to make more peaceful and fair through rock and roll.
“Everything Uribe does is against what we think,” singer/guitarist Andrea Echeverri groans, while bassist/producer Hector Buitrago ashamedly nods his head in agreement. “We have seen problems in the countryside,” Hector observes gravely, “and we feel like we have to intervene in these situations.” Among those situations the band is worried about include the forced movement of displaced and indigenous populations, violations of human rights happening under the guise of Uribe’s “Democratic Security” policy, and what the band says is the Uribe government’s tendency to sell land rights to any multi-national corporation that throws “two pesos” at the state for the privilege.
But the band is working towards the future, and would rather focus its criticism and activism on efforts to create a Colombia and a planet where, as Hector describes it, there is a model based on “solidarity, cooperation, free and clean energy, and in favor of human rights and nature instead of the profits of multi-national corporations.” Andrea also believes that changing Colombian society in favor of a more natural and tolerant approach will also help usher in a more peaceful country. “Peace requires a lot of work,” she says, “and in a country that is still as feudal and colonial as Colombia is, there can’t be peace. Without opportunities for the people, without education, without health care, there can’t be peace. Peace will make sense when there is some kind of social progress, and all of the emphasis is not on economics.” Hector chimes in that this is not all up to Colombia either, as other countries continue to sell weapons to both sides of the armed conflict. In addition, there is the United States-funded “Plan Colombia,” which Hector says has been a “failed experiment” that has not lowered cocaine cultivation, and has left “dead land, sick people, and damaged flora and fauna in its wake.”
“Rio,” the band’s latest disc, is an album full of songs based around the theme of water as a precious resource in danger, reinforced sonically with the sound of rushing water connecting all of the tracks together. The album was released in 2008, but the band is planning to tour behind it for a while longer. “The album has a message of defense of natural resources and connection with nature.” Hector says. “We have been invited to many events with those intentions, of resistance, for ecological and environmental movements, against mining interests, and in favor of other kinds of energy sources.” With so many concerts and events happening around the world reflecting the topics of the album, the band has decided to spread the word about the record and its issues as far and wide as it possibly can. A change in international booking agencies has led to a new itinerary in the coming year for the band: dates at festivals in the United States such as Bonnaroo, possible Lollapalooza performances, and their first concerts in Canada.
“Rio” was released at the same time as a referendum was being proposed in Colombia which would declare that access to water is a fundamental right for all Colombians, and that would create a system to keep that water clean and easily obtainable. In 2008, Buitrago made a trip down the Bogota River to collect signatures in favor of the referendum, which presently has two million signed supporters. Although the language of the water referendum is set to be debated in the present legislative session of the Colombian congress, it has been meeting all sorts of obstacles on its way there, and Buitrago encouraged those interested in seeing the referendum at the ballot box to check in at the website of its organizers, ECOFONDO, which is an agglomeration of environmental and community organizations based in Bogota working towards common ecological and social goals.
Andrea and Hector both also hope to find time to work on their second solo disc apiece. Hector’s side project is called Conector, and he says it is a place to experiment without boundaries, since “everyone has expectations when you put the name Aterciopelados on something.” He uses the project to indulge in a more electronic and instrumental side of his musical personality. Andrea records under her own name, and is looking for her second solo album to be an independent affair, as Hector produced the first one. “I have learned how to use digital recording software to record myself, so I am looking for this album to be more independent and self-sufficient,” she says, nodding playfully to Hector.
All this touring the world and solo recording leaves little time for upcoming concert dates in Colombia. Hector guesses the next concert here will be on Independence Day, July 20, as part of national bicentennial concerts happening all over the nation by local bands. They still don’t have a location nailed down yet – possible locations include Villavicencio and Cali – but Andrea says that’s the way it goes with their Colombian concert dates. “Our last concert was on a Friday, and we only found out we were playing it the Monday before,” she sighs, shrugging her shoulders. “Our concerts in Colombia could happen at any time, but they happen all of a sudden.” So, keep your eyes peeled for concert posters pasted on a nearby wall, and in the meantime check out their latest tunes at their Myspace page.