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Esteban Sehinkman: The Real Book Argentina

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Esteban Sehinkman is one of the great forces on the Buenos Aires scene. His Real Book Argentina has gathered compositions by 194 (and counting!) Argentine and Uruguayan musicians. His studio, Corrientes 2014, hosts underground concerts by some of the city's best musicians. He plays keyboards on Guillermo Klein's Domador de Huellas. And he leads the funktastic El Sapo Argentino trio.

Macropunto (El Sueño de Nikima)

Eric Benson: How did you get the idea for the Real Book Argentina?

Esteban Sehinkman: In the schools where I teach, the libraries only have traditional materials—basically, American and Brazilian composers. But students here are going to have more of an affinity with Argentine composers than with Cole Porter. It's great to analyze Cole Porter tunes, you've gotta do that, but you also have to do the other thing.

Let me ask you, why do so many Argentine musicians feel this impulse to search for an original sound?

EB: I'm not sure.

ES: Well, there's a myth, a false belief, that our musical roots are diffuse. So, it's like the search for a lost ship. A lot of idealists go searching for a lost ship to see what they can find.

EB: Does the lost ship exist?

ES: The lost ship is our inability to identify ourselves stylistically. American jazz musicians know exactly what their roots are. It's different here. No one agrees on where our roots are from. Are you going to tell me that Richard Nant's music is really closely related to tango and traditional South American folkloric music? No. It's much more difficult to categorize it.

EB: So, you're looking for roots that might not exist?

ES: I think this book demystifies the idea that we don't have roots. They're all here! There are 150 composers. It's all categorizable. It's all logical. This country was formed by immigrants, by creoles, by indigenous peoples, and here, in this book, you see all of that. Tango is here. Folklore is here. Rock is here. And beneath all of the diversity of styles there's something that unifies them. This book has a lot of material from people who are investigators as much as musicians.

EB: Investigators of?

ES: Of this, of the music. They're searching. And every day it's something: the discovery of a new chord, or a new polyrhythm, something outside of the normal canon. There's a concentration of those people here.

EB: Who are they?

ES: Klein is one. Klein is a madman. He's capricious. He's the synthesis of an investigator. Once he starts experimenting, he spends days experimenting. I was lucky enough to visit him in Barcelona when he was tranquil, when he wasn't doing any shows. He showed me what he was trying out on the piano. We spent hours there at the piano.

EB: He's an obsessive?

ES: He's super obsessive. But here there are a bunch! Richard Nant, Pipi Piazzolla. I think Pipi—even with his low profile, even though he's a quiet guy—is the leader of the tribe. Everyone loves him. Everyone respects him. He has this extraordinary humanity and then there's the way he plays!

But there are lot of people like that here. Richard is the same way. We all had the experience of going to Boston, going to Chicago, going to New York, of working with the best—guys who aren't fucking around at all. That's generating an echo.

EB: An echo of?

ES: Of what we brought from abroad. And what we could put together here if we worked together. If we're alone, the reality drags us down. If there are more of us, we create a climate where we can survive, where we can experiment with ideas. Having a book, having a club, being able to experiment with our ideas, staging a little festival...

If you look at the great artistic movements, say, French Impressionism, well, that was a group of people. New York in the 50s and 60s, that was a group too. It wasn't just one or two guys. They were groups of like-minded people who knew that there was something much greater than their individual points of view.

This interview has been translated from the original Spanish. It was conducted on July 11, 2008 in a café in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

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This story appears courtesy of Inverted Garden by Eric Benson.
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.

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