Spearheaded by singer-songwriter and El Kinto frontman Eduardo Mateo and poet and actor Horacio Buscaglia, the concert series Musicasión originally staged in 1969, was an underground showcase of Uruguayan rock. Though short-lived, Musicasión 4 ½ remains, a release made up of recordings made by participating artists around that time that would influence numerous artists later on, including experimental rock superstar Juana Molina.
For the album’s 50th anniversary in 2021, Molina has treated the album to a reissue on her Sonamos imprint, bringing the Musicasión project’s subversive 1970s rock to a global audience and shining a light on a scene largely buried by the authoritarian government of the time. In addition to Musicasión 4 ½‘s original 13 tracks (bridged in some cases by politically-charged poems that were censored quickly after the initial printing but return on the Sonamos version), this new edition includes a second disc of previously unreleased live and studio recordings by the same minds who came together for the original collaborative Musicasión concert series.
It’s easy to see why the original Musicasión 4 ½ made such an impact. The majority of it falls into the realm of candombe beat, a genre pioneered mainly by El Kinto (whose members perform on the vast majority of songs throughout the release), combining Afro-Uruguayan percussion with British Invasion-era rock and roll. The rest spans a spectrum that includes shades of rock, folk, jazz, candombe, tango, and bossa nova, among other things. There’s a lot on offer in just these original 13 tracks, a feast even more delectable now that it’s retro chic.
El Kinto tracks are dense, with irresistible hooks; sweet-spirited “Príncipe Azul”, impassioned “Yo volveré por ti”, and breezily psychedelic “Pippo” are especially outstanding, as is an achingly spacious rendition of “Mejor mi voy” performed by chanteuse Diane Denoir with Mateo on guitar before a jauntier reprise by El Kinto as a whole. Urbano Moraes’ “Musicasión III” features deep and bluesy emotion vis-á-vis voice and keys. Verónica Indart lends her strong, fiery vocals to Mateo’s guitar on “Hombre”. They’re a few highlights from an album with no real misses.
The second disc, many of its tracks only recently rediscovered, is every bit as compelling. El Kinto continues to dominate, opening the album on an ardent note with the haunting “Rosa”. Indart and Mateo team up once more on spectral “Mumi”, followed by Buscaglia shouting over El Kinto’s acid-soaked riffs for “Para una Musicasión” before Moraes’ dark, bass-laced “Tu andarás”. A couple of live tracks from 1966 showcase the Eduardo Mateo Trío backing a breathy Denoir (“Estoy sin ti”) and famed singer, percussionist, and El Kinto member Rubén Rada (“Aquel payaso”), in both cases to rapturous effect.
Moraes offers a resonant instrumental on track “Base para ‘Mirando la luna'”, which, though technically unfinished, is a glorious assemblage of repetitive shimmering. El Kinto’s “Solo me he de quedar” is yet another passionate piece of 1960s rock that goes heavy on harmonies. Mateo’s guitar is on full and dulcet display in another instrumental that leads into another El Kinto track (“Esa tristeza”) and two from Moraes (“Martín” and “Las cosas”), all three very much bossa nova-adjacent. Bringing Musicasión 4 ½ to a close are two sharply contrasting tracks: Horama’s enchantingly eerie “Te esperaré” and energetic El Kinto finale “Ni me puedes ver.”
Musicasión 4 ½ is the kind of record that deserves to be recognized as a jewel of classic rock. It feels as dynamic as its contemporaries in the Americas and beyond, as eclectic as Sgt. Pepper’s, as subversive as Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circencis, as fresh as Almendra, as sophisticated as Artaud. It’s well deserving of the doubling Sonamos’ rerelease gives it and stands out not just as an archive of what was but, if it reaches creative minds, as inspiration for what will be.