Ruben 'Negro' Rada more than almost any of his contemporaries for decades has worked as a devoted cross-genre pioneer.
Rubén Rada is born in 1943 in Montevideo’s Palermo quarter. He grows up as a fan of the Beatles, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong and Carlos Gardel. Embarking on his musical career in 1965 with the band El Kinto Conjunto, Rada becomes the first to combine Western rock music with Latin elements and to incorporate elements of jazz, funk, soul, tango and pop in his songs. But even in these early years, his ambitions and his achievements run deeper.
From the beginning, he integrates Uruguay’s national genre, candombe, in his musical creations. This traditional style, marked by complex rhythms laid down by three drums and costumed dancers, also has a history in Argentina as an expression of black identity, but, along with that nation’s black population, has largely disappeared there. Rada wants to prevent this from happening in Uruguay.
His promotion of candombe is at once a spirited act of dedication to his country’s 180,000-strong black community. In his eclectic art the combination of popular sounds from all over the world with his native musical culture and African heritage he anticipates the similar approach of the Brazilian Tropicália movement around Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, who a few years later give form to a new Afro- Brazilian pop and rock idiom.