Roberto Cantero, musician with over fifteen years of experience in the music industry, as a saxophonist, flutist and keyboardist, producer and arranger.
In revising your biography, seeing how many projects you are involved with and the list of countries where you have performed, it is easy to understand your close relationship to the music. Could you explain us what the music means for you?
At the beginning it was just a hobby but when you love a hobby so much, you start to desire it until it becomes your job. Then you find the ways to dedicate time to that, with other halftime jobs, for example as a waiter. That allows you to play with one or the other, make a home studio, to learn music and harmony or work with producers. In a way it is becoming like a love relationship. I am married to the music, like a priest with the religion. I am busy from the moment I get up until the moment I get to bed; studying, recording, or working with partners.
So, how do you compare your relationship to the music with a love relationship?
In my opinion, to maintain a relationship to music is easier than with a girlfriend. In a love relationship there are moments of discussion or doubt but on the other hand, with the music, you only have moments of connection and disconnection. It is like have an “on-off” girlfriend (laughs).
Which instrument did you learn first? And is it the instrument you prefer?
I started playing keyboards. Back in 1995, when I was still a kid under 20, I participated in two tours with Danza Invisible. They needed a “jack of all trades” who managed keyboards, samples, sequences and effects. Then I dedicated myself to study sax and flute. My main instrument is tenor sax, but due to work I have had to learn similar instruments like soprano sax, alto sax and transverse flute. So, despite the keyboard was my first instrument (which I continue studying), for me sax is the most important.
How did you become part of Chambao? What impact did this have on your life?
A friend of mine started working with them making arrangements in their live concerts. He recommended that they should incorporate two extra musicians for performances in order to complete the sequenced music played by the DJs. In the beginning I just was giving a helping hand, but after a time they incorporated me to the group. It was ten years ago, and since then I have been playing sax, flute, bordering electronic music and producing some tracks.
For me, to join Chambao represented a qualitative leap forward. With them I have been all over the world, playing in big theatres, sharing tours with renowned artists such as Ricky Martin, Nneka, Erykah Badu, Cypress Hill and performing in some important festivals.
Do you have a favourite country where you enjoy more when you go on tours?
There are a lot of countries where we have fun. For example Venezuela, Bulgaria or Turkey are countrie where we are back frequently and people there always treat us great. Each country has its moment, and sometimes the second visits are even better than the first ones.
What can you tell us about the experience of performing a concert in Perito Moreno glacier?
First of all, it was an honour because we have been the only group that has had the privilege of playing there, since it is a protected natural park. The Argentine Government proposed it to us in order to promote the area. On the other hand, it was painful, due to the cold temperatures there. It was ten degrees below zero. I’ve never felt colder than that day, even after wearing ski clothes. But in despite of that, it was a wonderful experience. When I saw the video-clip I loved it. We were only a few kilometres away from the South Pole and with the glacier in the background, in an incomparable place.
What was going through your mind in 2008 when you heard about your Grammy nomination in the category of Best Producer for Chambao’s LP “Con otro Aire”?
I felt a big happiness and surprised too. I did not know it by myself. On the same day that the nomination was aired, a lot of people sent me messages of congratulations. It happened in summer, and my birthday is in winter, so for one moment it was strange for me. (laughs) They did not give me the Grammy, but the nomination by itself means a lot for me, and I am very pleased for that. I never thought I would be nominated. The awards show was celebrated in Dallas, but I could not attend it because I had a concert. I have a frame with the nomination hung on a wall in my studio, and each time I see it I give thanks for that.
What can you tell us about the Roberto Cantero Grooving Quartet?
Between all my projects and experiments, I like playing with musicians influenced by black music which, in addiction of flamenco and jazz, I am constantly studying. The rhythm must content the 80 or 90% of the language that I want for the Grooving Quartet music. For that I have surrounded myself with jazz musicians, and we play own compositions or jazz standards in our way, with a black groove and a 70s afro beats style. All mixed up with jazz and funk. To play with that kind of musicians is something I feel I need from inside.
We can see another face of your work when you play featuring electronic music alongside your partners of “Who Killed The DJ”. Do you have fun with them in different ways?
Yes, I really have fun with this project because the electronic is another signature in the music and it is a genre that does not deserve to be despised and where a lot of talented producers have their work. Some pundits believe that good music only belongs to prestigious genres like classical or jazz and they do not realise that music nowadays is open to several ways of expression, like electronic music where you can find a lot of good compositions with great sounds. Personally, I like playing with Funky House because it has many components of black music. So when I play with my partners of Who Killed The DJ I feel the same basic concepts that were managed in 70’s; dance music, hypnotic grooves and improvisation.
In what state of process are the “Funkmenco Sessions”? How do you plan these productions?
I record step by step. At the beginning, my idea follows the usual process. That is producing all the songs at the same time. But I finally decided to try the common method for electronic music producers, who produce each track separately and they apply to the next production what they learn from the previous tracks. So I have changed my way here, realising I can give more love to each production.
You have also started in Hip-Hop. How does that influence your artistic life?
I started rapping with a group called Nación Sur who produced hip-hop artists with national importance like El Sicario, Elphomega, Gordo Master or TripeX. My first steps into the world of music are always curious, since it is usual that the musicians start in more academic manners with instruments and then engage with other electronic disciplines. In my case it was the opposite. I began by using samples from working with DJs and as a result of that I started to expand my knowledge of music with the instruments. Therefore in me there is always a groove base, and a break rhythm… that makes me hear the music in a different way that the rest of the musicians with a more orthodox music concept.
I recently did an event that can be found on Youtube with my jazz-funk band, the “Roberto Cantero Grooving Quartet”, in Sala Trinchera where we collaborated with Elphomega, El Sicario, Gordo Master, Alpha Omega. It was fun, featuring a band playing live and guests rapping on the grooves adapted to Hip Hop. They realised that it’s a different language, which allows them, without diminishing the DJs, whom I admire, to have more possibilities for improvisation. It’s like opening another door to my ancient past and my new present. I’m still a musician, I still play and I am still in contact with these grooves and that way of making music. This is not to detract anything but appreciate the good that each music can offers.
Can you tell us any musician you specially admire?
There is a New Yorker sax player who passed away some years ago that I profoundly admire. He played not only jazz, but hip-hop and funk too and he was also a member of many of the most relevant pop groups in 80s. I admire musicians without prejudices to play any musical genre. For me music is like food, I do not want to repeat lentils every day. I like delight with prawns one day and paella the next one (laughs). So, for me, the sax player Michael Brecker has been one of my referents and he has influenced to me so much.