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The Life & The Work Of Musical Genius, Gustavo Santaolalla

The Life & The Work Of Musical Genius, Gustavo Santaolalla

Argentinean composer Gustavo Santaolalla has created memorable, inspiring and award-winning musical compositions. He has won two back to back Academy awards for composing music for films like Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Babel (2006).

In an interview given to MusicTimes, the composer talks about his journey from being a recording artist to composing his own music for award winning films.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“I got into the world of music and film really by accident. I've always been a big fan of movies and always been attracted to the idea of doing music for films. I only had one previous experience, years ago in which I worked on a film for a friend of mine. I come from a background of making records and producing my stuff and then producing a lot of other groups, and I did a lot of things like that and got a lot of recognition doing that, especially producing Latin alternative music. I won a lot of Grammys - Latin Grammys, and some Anglo Grammys, too - doing that. I did a record years ago, like 15 years ago, called Ronroco, which is the name of the instrument that I use quite a bit. I would say that now my instrument, although I play a little bit of everything, is guitar and Ron Rocco. So I did an album based on that instrument. We put that album out on Nonesuch, which is a very famous record label, and we started to get a lot of responses. There was a buzz about the album. There's a great radio station here in Los Angeles, KCRW, and they started playing the album quite a bit. And then one day I got a phone call from Michael Mann's office, that he loved the record, he wanted to use one of the pieces in his movie, The Insider, the movie with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe about the tobacco industry.

The style of whatever I brought to the world of movies, it was different I think than anything that was out there, and people connected, and that's why I was blessed to get the recognitions that I had. The first one was a BAFTA; I got a BAFTA for The Motorcycle Diaries. I wasn't even going to go to England, because I was nominated with this big guy Howard Shore, and other big composers, but they insist on me going there because they said, "Listen, you know the movie here, people love the movie and love the music and you should come over." It was a big surprise for me. And then obviously everything else that happened if you know, I got a Golden Globe, I got an Oscar, and then I got nominated again. I got a second one! Still it's kind of surreal for me, everything that happened, but I guess I've done, and I'm doing something that connects with people, and that's what makes me euphoric. But there wasn't any big plan or strategy; it was pretty much an organic flow of things that brought me here.”

His work as a producer reads like the history of rock en español: Divididos and Bersuit Verbarabatfrom Argentina, as well as Fobia, Molotov and Juanes. He also produced a couple of Morrissey B-sides on a day off. 

Apart from the film scores, he is perhaps most well known for being the driving force behind the neo-tango collective, the Bajafondo Tango Club that mixes acoustic tango with electronica, much like the Gotan Project.