With a marathon run of concerts, exhibitions, art happenings and special broadcasts, Buenos Aires is celebrating Charly García's 70th birthday this weekend – a living tribute to a great musician and the composer of dozens of modern classics.
Under the name ‘Charly BA por Fito,’ fellow music legend Fito Páez will give a free show at the famous Teatro Colón. The Rosario-born songwriter will be accompanied by his band and an extended line-up of guest stars, playing new renditions of García's songs.
To get tickets for the gig, fans had to text ‘#CharlyBA’ to the City government’s WhatsApp bot. On Friday, the system crashed under the weight of demand, underlining the everlasting appeal of the Caballito-born songwriter’s music.
The Colón show is just one of hundreds of events this weekend that porteños can enjoy. But there’s one question on everyone’s lips: will the birthday boy be out and about too?
"Nobody knows for sure if he will be at the tributes, although everything is ready in case he appears," a source at the Kirchner Cultural Centre (CCK), one of the venues hosting celebratory events, told the AFP news agency on Friday.
Hablando a tu corazón
In isolation since the pandemic, Charly – born Carlos Alberto García Moreno on October 23, 1951 – last performed live on December 11, 2019 at Luna Park stadium, when, with a gravelly voice and some difficulty moving out, he nevertheless displayed his typical virtuosity at the piano, performing several of his classic compositions, such as ‘Yendo de la cama al living,’ ’Cerca de la Revolución,’ and ‘Desarma y Sangra.’
At the majestic CCK, a former post office, more than 40 musicians will perform in a marathon of shows lasting all Saturday. The performances, which will be dominated by García's tunes, will be divided into thematic blocks (jazz, rock, folk etc), will be streamed live across social networks and platforms.
Elsewhere in the building, ‘TRIP, Una experiencia sobre Charly García,’ a new show of music and images put together by photographer and visual artist Nora Lezano, tango singer Lidia Borda and pianist Daniel Godfrid, will be premiered. On other floors there will be talks about the artist's life, work and influence.
Lezano, along with his colleague Andy Cherniavasky and musician Hilda Lizarazu, are also exhibiting their photographs of the artist at the Teatro San Martín in Buenos Aires, where another concert under the musical direction of Lito Vitale opened celebrations on Thursday. To the delight of fans, artists who have played in Charly’s bands played classics such as ‘Demoliendo hoteles,’ ‘Ojos de videotape,’ ‘Raros peinados nuevos’ and ‘No bombardeen Buenos Aires.’
The landmark birthday is a chance for many to rediscover the songs of their youth, that helped shape their lives.
"With his songs, Charly gives us art, beauty, identity, genius, originality and courage. What makes him unique is his immeasurable personality, his humour, his capacity to be reborn from pain, his tremendous frontality,” singer-songwriter León Gieco told the Filonews website. “There’s no-one less fake than Charly.”
Música del alma
A giant figure in Argentine popular culture and the winner of a Latin Grammy for Musical Excellence in 2009, García sang of his own death before the age of 20, defied a brutal military dictatorship, survived the excesses of drugs and alcohol and now sings of building ‘La máquina de ser feliz.’ As well as a wildly successful career as a solo artist, he has also led emblematic bands such as Sui Generis, La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros and Seru Girán.
"Music is my oxygen," he told Rolling Stone magazine in 2018, which described him as the "greatest exponent of Argentine rock and roll" and a "cultural icon of the country."
A concert pianist who began training as a classical musician at the age of five, it was clear he was a musical prodigy from the get go, developing a keen ear and perfect pitch early on. But García says his life was turned upside down when he discovered the Beatles. They "blew his mind," he once said. Nothing would be the same again.
A rocker at heart, Charly questioned all the rules, rejecting political correctness and even defied the law of gravity – in 2000, he famously dived into a swimming pool from the ninth floor of a hotel, emerging unscathed.
Those were the times of his "Say No More" phase, when he destroyed instruments on stages and in hotel rooms, yet never lost his lucidity to portray reality and its musical qualities. That path of darkness would eventually lead him to an internment in a psychiatric clinic, from where he was rescued in 2008 by another famous musician, Ramón 'Palito' Ortega, who encouraged him to start recording again.
In 2009, in celebration of his 58th birthday, he offered a “resurrection” show at the Estadio Vélez in Buenos Aires. To a stadium packed full of fans, he sang as both performers and punters were drenched in torrential rain, with the storm creating an unforgettable atmosphere. He would later christen the concert: “El concierto subacuático” (“The Underwater Concert”).
The authorities will be hoping this weekend’s celebrations will be a little drier, but no less memorable.
– TIMES/AFP [With reporting by Liliana Samuel]
¡Feliz cumple Charly!
For more on this weekend’s activities, visit https://charlyba.buenosaires.gob.ar/