Buenos Aires native Fidel Nadal started listening to Bob Marley in the ‘70s during the midst of Argentina’s Dirty War. He fell in love with the legendary sound and decades later he is an icon in the genre of Spanish reggae. Not only does he have almost 20 solo albums under his belt, but he also has another 10 releases with groups Todos Tus Muertos and Lumumba. After close to thirty years making the music he loves, Nadal recently snagged two Latin Grammy nominations for “Best Alternative Album” and “Best Alternative Song,” bringing a new level of recognition to the genre. We were able to catch Nadal between touring in Mexico and making a music video in Argentina. He shared his take on being a solo artist, who inspired his love for the music, and the philosophy behind his art.
nocheLatina: This year you were nominated for two Latin Grammys. How does it feel to get that sort of recognition for reggae?
Fidel Nadal: I felt joy and happiness. After so many years, recognition like this is so important for me. Reggae in Spanish is a genre that has been growing a lot over the years and now I think its winning worldwide recognition.
nocheLatina: You’ve been in the music industry since the ‘80s and have been in a few different groups. How has the process of making music been different as a solo artist? Do you ever see yourself forming another group?
Fidel Nadal: Well, in a group you are just a part in the creation process and as a solo artist it’s just your ideas. Both are good experiences, but in my case when I started as a solo artist, I felt a little bit lost in the beginning but as the time passed I started to enjoy it very much, taking care of everything: music, lyrics, arrangements, etc. That’s helped me a lot musically, made me grab the guitar. I don’t know if I’ll form another band in the future, but for now I like it as a solo artist.
nocheLatina: You still collaborate with a lot of other artists, though.
Fidel Nadal: Yes I love collaborations. It’s a very rich experience to share and mix styles. Of course, there are a lot of artists who I’d like to work with, like El Cata, Lapiz Conciente, Shakira, Rita Indiana, Kalimba, Diomedes Diaz, Banda El Recodo, Lupillo Rivera, Gilberto Gil, Tiken Jah Fakoli, Chachi Tedesse, Teddy Afro, Mahotellas Queen, Snoop Dogg, Paris, Taurus Ryley, Yellowman, Ruben Rada, AC/DC, Filarmonica De Londres, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Alpha Blondy, Manu Dibango, Baaba Mal, Darra J, Lucenzo, Ziggy Marley, Los Mirlos Del Peru, Thomas Mapfumo, Salif Keita, King Sunny Ade, Evy Edna Ogholy, Angie Stone, and Jah Cure.
nocheLatina: What did you listen to growing up?
Fidel Nadal: I grew up loving music. Both of my parents really like music, so I grew up listening to Louie Armstrong, Wilson Picket, James Brown, John Coltrane, Odetta, Nicomedes Santacruz, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Santana, Jimmy Smith, Misa Luba, Paul Robeson, Jack Costanzo, Milt Jackson y Coleman Hawkins, Harry Belafonte, Art Blakey, Aretha Franklin, Josh White, Enrique Jorrin, Rolando Laserie, Maysa con Simonetti, Nat King Cole, Chico Hamilton, Miles Davis, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Wes Montgomery, Charles Mingus, Lightnin Hopkins, Sonnny Terry, and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. All of this music, alongside my father’s political activities and cultural studies activities, greatly inspired me. I grew in a different ambience, which helped me when I started in music.
nocheLatina: How and when did you encounter the Rasta culture?
Fidel Nadal: First in the early ‘70s when the first imported LP records began to arrive at the record store in my neighborhood. I started listening to Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. I started translating some of the lyrics to Spanish – mostly Bob Marley – which got me interested in the Rasta culture and philosophy. I think that I saw in it the fight of my fathers, but then in my own way I felt the rebellion. My interest in the culture started to grow and I tried to put it in my own music.
nocheLatina: Tell us about this idea of rebellion through music.
Fidel Nadal: The good thing about music is that you can express yourself and the thought that expression, that feeling, you reach people, with the sound and with the words. My father used to say that music goes with the revolutionary process of the people, and I focus on the power of music that is strong enough to unite people of different ideas. I believe that’s what we need in our world today.
nocheLatina: You seem so deep into your music. What do you do when you’re not working?
Fidel Nadal: I’m into music all the time! I don’t think of it as ‘work’ because I love it so much. I’m always touring, recording, or doing interviews, videos, meetings, rehearsals, composing, etc.
nocheLatina: I know you just finished touring in Mexico. What’s next on the agenda for you?
Fidel Nadal: Yes, that was a great tour. I have been all over. Now I’m back in Argentina to make a new music video for my Forever Together album and at the same time make a couple of shows with my full band in Argentina, in a few different cities. Then, I’ll start to think about the next album.
nocheLatina: Do you ever feel pressure to outdo yourself, especially with the success and recognition you got from Forever Together?
Fidel Nadal: Well, in this you need a little pressure sometimes. But now, I take it naturally, as it comes and just try to go with the inspiration of the moment.
nocheLatina: When can we expect to see the next album?
Fidel Nadal: I think in September next year, but I don’t know what I’m gonna do musically at that time!