How often do we get to reach out and touch one of our heroes? Jorge Drexler, an Uruguayan (OK now, how many of you know where Uruguay is located in South America?) singer-musician-poetic songwriter played this week at an intimate venue in San Diego on his tour of Europe, the US, and South America, already receiving glowing reviews in the LA Times and NY Times among others. I counted myself lucky to be there to hear his unique and beautiful music. Even more lucky to meet and talk with him after the show where he greeted every woman with two kisses and bid goodbye with a hug.
Well known in Europe and Latin America, Jorge is just catching on in the United States after winning an Academy Award two years ago for the best original song, the first Oscar to go to a Spanish language song, Al Otro Lado del Rio (To the Other Side of the River) from Motorcycle Diaries. More on that story later.
His current tour coincides with the release of his most recent album, 12 Segundos de Oscuridad (12 Seconds of Darkness) - already a best seller in Europe - whose title song was inspired by a lighthouse in a small town on Uruguay’s Cape Polonio where he had retreated to escape the demands of post-Oscar success and the break-up of his marriage. 12 Seconds refers to the darkness between beams of light needed for sailors to navigate, and in our lives the need to have darkness between light, to have patience rather than attempt to escape uncertainty, doubt and restlessness as we look for our path.
For our evening, Jorge sang accompanied only by his guitar and yes, believe it or not, his laptop computer. Amazing what these techno-pop artists can do. He talked with the crowd between songs explaining, for example, the meaning behind Hermana Duda (Sister Doubt), that doubt can be better than self-confidence as it leaves the mind more open.
Midway through the evening he set down his guitar and explained his next song would be a capella, that one evening about two years ago and one and a half hours north of San Diego he sang this song a capella - no mention that this was the Oscars night - and, finding he liked the song better this way, he has sung it only a capella since.
The song was Al Otro Lado del Rio, the Academy Award winner, and we all knew the story behind the a capella. Although acclaimed in Europe and South America, Jorge Drexler was an unknown in the US when the song, composed and sung in the movie by Drexler, was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. With Drexler an unknown, Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana were asked to perform Al Otro Lado del Rio amid protest and petitions from the Latin music industry. Gael Garcia Bernal, who played young Che Guavara in the movie, stayed away from the ceremonies in protest. Jorge handled the snub with graciousness, but when his name was called as the Oscar winner he used his ninety seconds to sing verses of the song a capella. Continuing to sing this song, his most famous, a capella has been his protest.
With men such as Jorge Drexler in the world, I think I could change my Men Like War thought to Most Men Like War.
Videos of four songs from the most recent albums, Eco and 12 Segundos de Oscuridad, can be watched at his official web site