Aterciopelados: Always Committed to Music, Mature but Rebellious (Interview)

That shock that caused the “alterlatino” movement in the mid-90s wouldn’t be the same without Aterciopelados. Originally from Colombia, they were part of a generation of Latin American artists who emerged with a colorful blend of rock with reggae, funk, hip-hop, bolero, salsa, vallenato, and other traditional regional music. The emblematic band led by Andrea Echeverri and Héctor Buitrago is still very active today, touring and recording, paying tribute to its past, and committing to building a better future.

With more than 30 years of career, 9 studio albums and 3 live records, 3 Latin Grammy Awards and 6 Grammy nominations, Aterciopelados has released many classics that left their mark not only on the Colombian music scene but also on the popular Ibero-American songbook. Andrea and Héctor’s initial journey includes El Dorado (1995), La Pipa de la Paz (1996) and Caribe Atómico (1998) a series of albums that are key to getting into the Latin alternative rock culture. A career that was paused to air their solo projects. And they took it up again and again to continue breaking stereotypes and creating music with messages of female empowerment, social peace and environmental awareness.


A few days ago, El Dorado (En Vivo) came out. This is their third official live recording, captured from “a vintage concert” that they put on last year in their hometown, Bogotá, to revive their representative second album El Dorado on stage, along with guests such as Carlos Vives and Rubén Albarrán (Café Tacvba). Before that commemoration concert that they had been postponing due to times of confinement, Aterciopelados had appeared in 2021 to release their most recent studio album Tropiplop, a cry in defense of independent art, women and our battered planet.

Next month, on April 20, Aterciopelados returns to Miami to play all these classics live at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center. It will be one of the shows not to be missed, so don’t hesitate to book your tickets. Meanwhile, Andrea and Héctor gave us this exclusive interview…


After revisiting El Dorado over the past year, what are Aterciopelados’ performances like in 2024? What songs do you include in your set?

Andrea Echeverri: We play many songs from El Dorado, such as “Florecita Rockera”, “Bolero Falaz”, “Candela”, “La Estaca”… but also classics from other albums, such as “Maligno”, “Rompecabezas”, “El Estuche”, “El Álbum” and “Baracunatana”. We include songs from other more recent albums, Claroscura and Tropiplop, such as “Dúo”, “Tu Amor Es”, “En la Ciudad de la Furia” and “Meditacielo”. And we also like to include “La Culpable”, from La Pipa de la Paz.


Next year will be El Dorado’s 30th anniversary. Are you planning anything else?

Héctor Buitrago: The 2023 concert was the 25-year celebration, postponed due to the pandemic. Last week on Friday, March 15 the full live album came out, along with the version of “Bolero Falaz” with Carlos Vives and the rest of all the videos, after “Mujer Gala” and “La Estaca” both with Rubén Albarran were released last year. We’ll continue touring with El Dorado anniversary in 2024. People want to hear “Bolero…” or “Florecita…” regardless of the season. Also, the plan is to release a new album this year.


So you’ve been writing new material… When will this album be ready?

Héctor: There will be a new studio album, yes. We’re a little busy right now, focused on the release of El Dorado (Live), and also getting ready a new version of “Rompecabezas” with Vivir Quintana and Los Auténticos Decadentes, as part of a campaign… But as soon as we finish all this, between tours, we’ll focus on finishing the new album that we hope to release this year.


Your last studio release was “Liberté”, a single to commemorate 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How did this song come about? And how did Susana Baca, Dr. Shenka and Enrique Bunbury join?

Andrea: The project is carried out with the European Union and the United Nations in Mexico. The person who promoted the idea was Federico Quintana, who directs UNHCR’s Palomazo por los Refugiados project. We had previously collaborated with him on this improvisation festival and the music videos for “Ovarios” and “Meditacielo”. With Fede and the European Union, I had already done together with Vivir Quintana and La Marisoul from La Santa Cecilia the song “¿Quién Cuida al Pueblo?”. With Mrs. Susana Baca I have sung “Negra Presuntuosa” and “Florence Conexión”, in Cartagena, Spain, and Bogotá, and we’ve felt mutual affection and admiration. Enrique Bunbury sang in La Pipa de la Paz, in the songs “Quemarropa” and “Te Juro Que No”, after Aterciopelados opened a tour for Héroes del Silencio in Spain. Gratitude and good memories were renewed in this new collaboration. We’ve met with Dr. Shenka a couple of times in Sabo Romo’s Rock en tu Idioma, and his participation strengthens and gives great weight to the song. We’re very happy that “Liberté” has been crystallized in such a beautiful way.


After so many years of writing, playing and recording music together, how does the “dynamic duo” fare? Do methods change or do habits prevail?

Héctor: Total dynamic duo! We’re committed to music, mature but rebellious and determined to defend our space to question what we believe should be questioned. I’m more focused on the environment and the ancestral, like the defense of water, promoting the Cantoalgua campaign, which took place this March 22. Andrea is more focused on feminism and human rights. And together we try to reflect on what concerns us in our lives, trying to contribute something to this society in crisis, to find new fusions, new ways of communicating, and strengthening our struggles without leaving aside humor and enjoyment. I suppose we have our habits, but we make music that remains alternative, and we’re happy to know that this music accompanies, questions, challenges and reaches several generations.


Are you worried about the world we live in, about what it has been transforming into? How do you see the future?

Andrea: I try not to think about it too much. We stay focused on music, on artistic creation. On ceramics in my case. Héctor is with activism. We try to make music that responds to what is happening today, to contribute something from our creativity. The lyrics on our latest album such as “Antidiva” and “Meditacielo” reflect our vision of the world. I’m pessimistic, Héctor is optimistic. We try to remain honest, consistent and active, spreading a message of tolerance, respect and love. We keep doing what we know how to do, what makes us happy and stays with us in our beautiful niche.


How do you see the Colombian scene? What do you find interesting?

Andrea: Colombia boils. In all genres, the country has its moment of boom, of projection. I’m a devoted fan of Las Añez, La Muchacha Isabel Ramirez Ocampo and Edson Velandia. Much beautiful music is being created, by many girls, like Flor de Lava, a collective of female singer-songwriters where our keyboardist Paula Van Hissenhoven is a member along with Pilar Cabrera and other incredible girls.

Héctor: I like what bands like Armenia and Diamante Eléctrico are doing. I also like Briela Ojeda, Semblanzas del Río Guapi, Sexteto Tabalá, Dawer X Damper


And what about the rest of Latin America? What do you like?

Andrea: My lifelong tastes are Caifanes, Cafe Tacvba, Soda Stereo, Jorge Drexler, Kevin Johansen… Argentine rock was a very important part of my training. I love Alejandro & María Laura from Peru. And more new ones, Vivir Quintana and Irina Indigo.

Héctor: I like Wos and Trueno, both from the Argentine hip-hop scene.


How about Colombian folk and roots music being rescued by the new generations?

Héctor: Absolutely. Colombian folk music has more and more space. The one from the Caribbean has always been important, but the one from the Pacific is gaining more and more popularity… Young people study its instruments, travel to meet old teachers, promote them, make fusions, and attend festivals. It also happens with Andean, Llanera and Amazonian music… Colombian folklore is very alive and continues to develop.