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Bacilos Is Still Running Against The Grain


24 October 2004
Copyright © 2004 Newsday. All rights reserved. 

From the beginning, the Miami- based pop group Bacilos has been an unusual proposition. Made up of three members hailing from Colombia, Puerto Rico and Brazil, it was a rare pan-Latino alliance. When the three won the 2002 Grammy award for best Latin pop recording for their "Caraluna" album, they had a scruffy, anti-pop aura around them, as if they were socially conscious interlopers in a world of glitz and superficiality.

On their just-released third album, "Sin Verguenza" (Warner Latina), it appears that singer-songwriter Jorge Villamizar, bassist Andre Lopes and drummer Jose Javier Freire finally feel free enough to be themselves.

"The first two records were made up of materials that served as our workhorse songs that we played in bars," Villamizar said. "So when we finally got a chance to use new material, I started composing songs with a record in mind - I never did that before. The truth is, 10 years have passed since we formed the group, and I'm not the same guy anymore."

The album's title is a play on words; it literally means "without shame," but it can also mean

"troublemaker" or "rascal." You get the feeling throughout much of Bacilos' work that they like to run against the grain, but on "Sin Veguenza," it's more pronounced. "Sangre América" openly challenges the conception of what an American is, and the blood that was spilled to produce that notion. The reggae-tinged "La Olla" fiercely complains about the treatment ordinary Colombian citizens get when passing through American customs because of drug trafficking, which Villamizar blames rich Americans for encouraging.

For "Sin Verguenza," Bacilos chose two producers who have been involved in the rapid evolution of Latin pop over the last five years. The Colombian Juan Vicente Zambrano has worked with Ricky Martin, Gisselle and many others, and Brazilian Tom Capone, who tragically died last month in a motorcycle crash on the night of the Grammys, after he failed to win when nominated for producing Maria Rita's debut album. "We think they gave us a new sound," Villamizar said.

"Bacilos is a little bit of a different group, not so marked by the traditional genres of Latin music. Ten years ago, Bacilos couldn't have emerged, because you had to do salsa or regional Mexican or pop. But now, we're starting to explore the different sides of our cultures."

It may have been a risk for Bacilos to deviate from the formula that produced hits like "Mi Primer Millón." But Villamizar is driven by more idealistic reasons.

"I feel very happy to be part of a movement that is producing artists that are real, not commercial, productions," he said. "Music, in general, is made by sincere people, but pop is manipulated by the industry to look for people who are light-skinned, tall or pretty. But there are so many Latinos who write songs, and I'm happy to be one of them. It's good that the Hispanic world of the U.S. gets to know this side of Latin music."

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