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Roberto Blades, from soccer player to salsa icon: he played against Cubillas, the disagreement with Rubén Blades and the sad story of “Tears”

Blades Bellido de Luna Díaz was 17 years old when he formed the Orquesta Inmensidad together with a group of new musicians who lacked financial resources, but were full of talent and enthusiasm.

I took this as a hobby to have fun, cover quick debts, buy my plane ticket and try out for Santos, a Brazilian soccer team. My intention was to stand outside with my ball and tell the coach to try me out or else go to Germany. That was really my dream”, he comments.

─Did you realize your dream?

I had scholarships, but I couldn’t use them because I joined Orquesta Inmensidad and it began to get a local fan base, from Puerto Ricans, Panamanians, Peruvians and Miami salsa singers. We started making money, contracts came out. However, I got to play in a second division team. . But since I knew I couldn’t be at the mass and the procession at the same time, I walked away from soccer, and never looked back.

“I came to play in a second division team. Teófilo Cubillas was in one of those teams (Fort Lauderdale Strikers). I played against him, he played very well”

─Is it true that you also wanted to be an airplane pilot, that you were thinking of enlisting in the United States Air Force?

That’s right, but the day I was going to sign something happened that made me change my mind. A superior yelled at another in front of me, demanding something from him that he had not done. The guy accepted the scolding without saying a word. I would have yelled at him for talking to me like that. And since I was not willing to allow myself to be abused, I put the pen down and left.

─Then came the first album, “Inmensidad”, which you recorded with Fania Records. How did you get the Fania to bet on you being a group that was just starting out?

Jerry Masucci, president of the Fania, the day after seeing us at a show, called me to tell me that he wanted to hire me because he thought it was good. I accepted, but on the condition that I hire the entire orchestra. I explained to him that we had our own sound, that it just wasn’t going to sound the same. Then we all went to New York to record our first record.

“In ‘I’m not going back with you’ you could hear my innocence, my inexperience with salsa, very humble, as if in pain”

─A record that marked the beginning of romantic sauce.

A record that changed the industry, because it had no knowledge of romantic sauce. I didn’t sing like Ismael Rivera, Ismael Miranda or Cheo Feliciano, but like an 18-year-old boy. In “I’m Not Going Back With You” you could hear my innocence, my inexperience with salsa, very humble, as if in pain. And the theme was an explosion, it displaced everyone, Rubén, Willy Colón…, it was something new and a face that had nothing to do with the salsa stereotype. And “Alegría”, the second album, only ratified this success. We obtained a Gold and Platinum record.

─In “Alegría” there was “Lagrimas”, a song inspired by a painful family event.

In the separation of my parents. I was 17 years old, when they started arguing, fighting. After living so long as the perfect family, they were going to separate, and I was the only one of five siblings who absorbed that crumbling of the nuclear family. I was disappointed, the music served me as an escape, an outlet. When I recorded this song, I was sure that this energy remained on the acetate, I knew that this transmission of pain and disappointment would be perfectly understood by those who felt like me.

─When you started in music, was it a challenge, a challenge, to be the younger brother of Rubén Blades, an icon of salsa in the world?

When I started, you know that your friend Rubén didn’t speak to me for almost two years.


We (Immensity Orchestra) We were a little group, in Miami, small, unknown, made up of people from the block between the ages of 19 and 24. There was no Ray Barretto, a Willie Colón or a Luis Ramírez. They all helped Ruben. Unlike him, I didn’t ask anyone for help. When my brother found out that he was going to record in New York with the Fania, he called my dad’s house the day before. He told me: “I just found out that you are coming to New York and I hope that is not true because otherwise you will not have a brother named Rubén.” Then he hung up, he never let me talk.

─What did you do before that warning?

I called Jerry Masucci to tell him I’m not traveling because Ruben says I’m betraying him and I don’t want any trouble. He replied that if he didn’t go, the band wouldn’t go either. I felt his response as if a dagger was being driven into my liver. In the end I went.

─ What happened to your brother?

He didn’t speak to me for almost two years. One day the phone rang, I answered, it was him. He told me: “I have decided that you can talk to me now, everything is fine. When you come to New York call me to go eat. And that I did. The day I went, I looked it up. He cooked steak with onions, we ate together. Then he asked me to play what he was doing. When he heard “Lágrimas”, he told me that that was the hit.

─And he was not wrong.

Not at all. He is a great musician, I really liked how he played the guitar. He gave me my first guitar.

– Do you still have it?

I still have it, it’s saved.

─What is the biggest dream you have fulfilled?

The fact that Emilio Estefan recruits me as a composer. He is a genius, he had an incredible economic system with composers, arrangers, sound engineers, producers…. Everything worked in one building, there were five studios with several demo rooms, it was like a laboratory. I worked with the best musicians, I got the Grammy for Best Salsa Album for “Encore”.

─ What dream do you have pending?

There is a saying that I always put on Facebook: “I love music, I hate the music business”. I understood that I like being behind the stage much more than in front of it. All my life I struggled to learn where the money goes, how much a CD costs, how a concert is put on, where the money goes, how much sound is worth, what camera to use… I’ve always wanted to know how this works because I don’t like being robbed. I like to win, to make money with art. “Los Grandes II” is one of those great projects that I have.

“The Great II”

Roberto Blades arrived in Lima to be part of “Los Grandes II”, a festival that will bring together national and international salsa icons on April 15 at the San Marcos Stadium.

About 20 years ago we did Los Grandes I with great success with Rubén, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Eva Ayllón and yours truly. This new installment will bring Willie Colón, Oscar D’León and Luisito Carrión back to Peru. We will also have Son Tentación, Antonio Cartagena and whenever I come the Peruvians from Orquesta Internacional Sabor accompany me. Melcochita will open the show with his incredible talent. He is a very funny sonero, for me he is a national treasure”, ends.


Tickets for Los Grandes II are on pre-sale with 15% with BBVA cards on the digital platform of Teleticket.

Source: Elcomercio

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