Backtracks: Alex Raspa


On this BACKTRACKS entry, bossanova echoes in the night during Alex Raspa‘s childhood in Argentina.  A sound engineer with deep interests in world music and global cinema, Alex discusses a song that reminds him of how his father introduced him to cultures beyond his own. Listen to his story here:

AlexRaspa195The songs in Alex’s story were written by Vinicius de Moraes, otherwise known as O Poetinha, a seminal figure of Brazilian music who left behind a string of significant albums (and eight marriages) when he passed away in 1980. According to Alex:

“Moraes was a poet, a playwright and a songwriter as well, he’d been active in all these fields since at least the late forties/early fifties in Brazil. But the other interesting thing was he was a diplomat for the Brazilian government. He was actually working for the embassies for Brazil in France and other countries, he also worked for UNESCO. But when the military took over in Brazil in 1964 in the coup, he was considered a bohemian, and not exactly a conservative so he wasn’t liked by that government. So eventually he was forcibly retired from the Ministry of Foreign Relations where he worked in 1969. The political police spied on him, they branded him as a “rabble” and a drunk, so pretty much he couldn’t work for the government once the military was in.”

Moraes and Antônio Carlos Jobim wrote several well-known Brazilian classics, not the least of which was “Garota de Ipanema”, which many will know from the English version popularized by Astrud Gilberto, with João Gilberto and Stan Getz. The original Portuguese version is included on the album, “Vinicius de Moraes: Live in Buenos Aires”, which was first titled “Vinicius de Moraes en La Fusa”.  Alex says he found out years later that the album didn’t exactly capture the sound of Moraes live in concert.

“They decided not to record the album live in the actual theater. Instead they recorded it in the studio so they could concentrate on the sound, and they did record ambience and clapping and audience responses from the actual show, and they interspersed those in the album to give it more of the feeling of it being live. The first time I heard this record I must have been at least 5 or 6, even though it came out in 1970 when I was 2, and at the time I didn’t realize it was recorded in the studio.”


For Alex, it is impossible to hear the songs of Moraes from this album without connecting it to life in Argentina before the military coup of 1976, the repercussions of which are felt to this day. In May of this year, Jorge Rafael Videla, the military commander who was head of the junta in Argentina from 1976 to 1981, died in prison at age 87, after serving a sentence for crimes against humanity. Videla was the architect of Argentina’s Dirty War,  during which 30, 000 victims of state terrorism were killed or “disappeared”. Democracy was restored following Argentina’s defeat in the 1982 Falklands War, and though their families continue to search for them, the Desaparecidos have never been heard from again. To Alex Raspa, this Brazilian album is a snapshot of a more peaceful and innocent time in Argentina’s history.

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