In November 2020, El Muro Tango and singer Omar Mollo, both based in northern Europe, made a tour through Norway in which they shared over 15 days, stages, dinners, and more than 2,000 kilometers of route.
What follows is a sample of that encounter, on the words of pianist – and now also interviewer – Juan Pablo de Lucca and Mollo. A review of the history of the singer and guitarist with his beginnings in Pergamino, his arrival in Buenos Aires, rock music, his landing in tango, and his learning and the “joys of a normal life”.
How does your singing story begin?
-I remember having a great time when I was a kid with a family that lived on the corner of my house, folklorists: the Sarlinga brothers. Tatín Sarlinga was Antonio Tormo’s guitarist, and they had a guitar trio. They taught me to dance malambo, zamba, and chacarera. They would take me on weekends with a bus to all the towns around Pergamino and we would do a peña (traditional folklore dancing place).
-When I was 6 years old, I started to learn guitar. That’s when my enthusiasm for this instrument began. My mother wanted me to learn piano, but I didn’t like it very much. So I spent all my childhood in Pergamino and at the age of 12, we formed the group “Los Romanceros de Achalay”, led by Pepe Motta.
-When I was 12 years old, we moved to Buenos Aires and I started to listen to other music, still, folklore and tango were always there. I got to know people and places, and the music of that time: ballads, Santana. Then I switched to rock and formed the band “Años bisiestos”. At the end of ’69, I was called to do the compulsory military service and came to Buenos Aires leaving everything behind.
And after the military service?
-I wanted to start a rock band. I was listening to Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I started to teach my brother how to bend notes and so on. I would do the background for him to solo on top. With a bass player and a drummer from our neighborhood – El Palomar – we started to rehearse. Five years of rigorous rehearsals, without going out. We were very sharp. Gossip travels, and people came to see us from the Capital. They all came: Grinbank, Oscar López, Jorge Álvarez. They presented us with contracts to record and I was totally crazy and told them no: “we don’t have to negotiate with them because music is a gift from God”, and I could not profit from it. It was nonsense I had in my head. We had a couple of very good concerts with Lito Nebbia, Moris, and others. Until the day we played at Luna Park, and the drummer, I don’t know what happened to him, he didn’t play his solo, he finished the concert and said: “I don’t play anymore”. He went to Brazil with a circus.
“All the rockers -except Pappo- wanted to do tango.”
-That’s when the problems with the drummers started. They all passed through the band, from Juan Rodríguez of Sui Generis to Claudio Martínez. To our basement came “el flaco” Alambre, Pappo, Moro, a lot of people. Between comings and goings, I went to Brazil for a long weekend, for four days. It was just my fucking luck that I ended up staying for 6 months and started to build my path. I called my brother and the other musicians to come, but they didn’t want to join me. After 6 months the visa expired, I came back and my brother and the other musicians had already started other projects. Arnedo was called to Sumo and Ricardo (Mollo) went too. At that time I was 30 years old. For 12 years I gave up guitar, singing, everything. I got angry with music. I put together the group, I built the rehearsal room, everything, and then the kids kicked me out. And I never got involved in the commercial side.
When did you start making music again?
-In 2000 I came back to reassemble M.A.M.. We did the Cosquín festival every year and we got calls from everywhere. But the producers told me: “no, Divididos is already doing this sound”, we had a similar vibe. “It’s bullshit,” I thought then. We were signed to DBN and had to present an album at La Trastienda, but we had problems with our manager and so I called Graciela Minervino. We knew each other from when we were kids, through mutual friends. Since that day when I visited her on the radio, we have produced many things together, to the point that this is what you see today: we are no longer separated.
Rock and Tango genes
Where did the idea of doing tango come from?
-In all the meetings with rockers, I always talked about tango. And that’s when Graciela was convinced to get me to do tango. All the rockers -except Pappo- wanted to do tango.
Any other rocker who did tango?
-Iorio, Ciro, el pelado Cordera, Celeste Carballo. We made many tributes to tango under Colángeo´s musical direction. With Melingo, Gabi Epumer, Iván Noble. All of them listened to tango, and that’s how Melingo made the program “Mala Yunta” where all the rockers went to sing tango. Albistur saw me on that program and called me to make a record. I was reluctant to sing tango, but Graciela insisted and told me “in this country you will not be able to live from rock music. Do tango and you will be able to do whatever you want”. Then I fell in love with how the environment of the people who came to see me changed. I soon had a beautiful response from the audience, although to this day I still find it difficult to learn the lyrics.
“Argentine rock is very tango-oriented, IF NOT just look at Miguel Cantilo.”
For a rocker, where does the tango come from?
-My father was such a fan of Gardel that I ended up hating tango. But there has always been a tendency within rockers to sing tango. Argentine rock is very tango-oriented, just look at Miguel Cantilo.
What is the difference between tango and rock?
It is not about rock or tango, but about the people that play it. In rock music, there is a lot of energy that is needed. I used to end up exhausted after marathon concerts. Until I told myself that that wasn’t for me anymore.
The tango way
When did you record your first tango?
-In 2003. I made a beautiful record with Carlos Buono and that’s when I hit the dance floor. Then the awards and all of that. I could have been a member of SADAIC in the 70s, but I was a mess. And nobody helped me either. Life and responsibility came to me at that age, when I met the woman with whom we made a life project together. We talked a lot before getting together
Do you listen to current music? Any singers you like?
-No, I don’t listen much. When you listen to a lot of things, they stick to you. Among today’s singers, the one that touches me the most is Chino Laborde.
“Today I am motivated to live a lot.
To make the most of it, because the days are getting shorter.”
How do you approach the interpretation of a new tango?
-I approach interpretation by listening to Polaco Goyeneche, from there I take what I have to take. I listen to it a thousand times until I make it mine, then I start doing what I do. I satirize the tangos, I act them out, I get into the story and I do it in a very accentuated way until it makes you laugh, or you cry with emotion. I’ve done it in so many albums that now it’s natural. I only take the tangos that touch my heart.
-To build an album, I listen a lot. Besides, when I was a kid I heard so much of folklore and tango, that you already have the DNA of this music inside.
What did tango give you?
-Everything, to tell you the truth, tango gave me everything. Rock didn’t give it to me because I didn’t know how to face it. That’s why I always blame myself. When I started to work, I got results; but I was late.
At 70 years old and with so much experience, what do you want to do now?
-Today I am motivated to live a lot. To make the most of it, because the days are getting shorter. Enjoying the little things in the life you have chosen, good food and walks. Without those little things, you don’t get to any big thing. Every year is a stepping stone. Don’t believe you are the best, even if you’ve played in the best theater in the world, the next day you may have to do the dishes and do what you have to. Cooking, cleaning, these are the joys of ordinary life.
Before we arrive
We are in the van coming back from our concert in Flekkefjord, the last one of this tour. We come with instruments and suitcases. In a few days, all this will be just a memory, one more tour, and I never tire of resurrecting old rock and tango stories, those that I only get to live through the stories of those who have lived them. One last Q&A before arriving home.
The most tanguero of the rockers?
The most rocker of the tangueros?
Naranjo en flor
The greatest joy music has given you?
To be today with material stability and in full love.
The stage of kindness, unselfishness, light, happiness, and companionship.