El gran baile de las identidades, Boogat
by Souad Martin-Saoudi
The question of identity has never been more relevant. Neither modernity nor globalization has been enough to wear down cultural or ethnic affiliations, and it seems that they have actually enabled more individualized forms of belonging to arise. Music being a necessity and a medium of expression of identity, we should look at the musician as being placed at the center of a dialect on the global/local, the universal/particular.
Born in Quebec City, Canada to a Mexican mother and a Paraguayan father, Daniel Russo Garrido cut his hip-hop teeth while attending university. He then relocated to Montreal in 2001 to pursue his ambitions. Going by “Boogat,” Russo Garrido earned a good reputation and garnered some local media attention, yet there was still something missing. After three albums, his solo concept was just not received the way he wanted, and let’s face it: the hip-hop scene in Quebec is very limited, almost sectarian (though primarily the product of immigrants). It was time to look elsewhere, to dig deeper, to reinvent.
Identity is no longer merely a question of inheritance or customs, but the subject of individual choice. And Boogat chose wisely when he decided, back in 2010, to collaborate with Montreal-based electronic producer DJ Poirier (Ninja Tune) on a dark, industrial, glitchy reggaeton track in honor of the priest in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Released through ZZK Records, “Kalima Shop Titi” was his turning point, as it pushed him to rethink his mode of interaction with the world. The MC’s transition towards more tropical bass sounds also led him to feature on El Remolon’s Pangeatico EP. Armed with this new knowledge and ability, Boogat dropped El Dorado Sunset/El gran baile de las identidades earlier this month. Choosing to now rap strictly in Spanish, Boogat uses language as a mediator for the construction of his own identity. Sure, the lyrics are less brainy than when he rapped in the language of Moliere, and his approach still needs to be refined, but to me, by mixing his hip-hop roots with the urban bass, electro tropical sounds of DJ/producer Poirier, Boogat may have struck gold, or at least something really pretty and gilded.
The opening number, “Eres hecha para mí,” with its excellent production, courtesy of Munich's electro/dancehall dons Schlachthofbronx, displays how dance-driven music can become a provider of cultural identity in a multiethnic Canadian society. However, on “Llévame pallá,” Boogat’s flirting with Latin music archetypes comes dangerously close to cheesy world fusion. So here I am, torn between my desire to praise his efforts to foster interculturality in a multicultural Quebec and my discomfort with the one too many cross-cultural shortcuts. Boogat’s “great ball of identities,” if any, is one where we do not know which foot to dance on. At times, it seems like Boogat has found the strength to redefine and reassert his art in the music, at others, it’s like he is struggling to sustain his self-imposed pace. Then, among the dozen richly arranged and orchestrated songs seamed with love, migration, identity and nightlife, there’s a true gem: “Único.” In collaboration with Club Fonograma favorite, Lido Pimienta, the track discusses how strangely the foreigner lives within us as the hidden face of our identity. The ease with which Boogat and Lido Pimienta tackle complex issues—like the absorption of foreignness by our Western societies and the possible coexistence of these foreigners that we all recognize to be ourselves—is truly disarming. The foreign begins when consciousness of one’s own difference emerges, but ends when we all recognize ourselves as foreign.
Part of El Dorado Sunset’s strength lies in its ability to make us reluctant to dwell on its flaws or even want to answer whether the LP is intended for Quebec or Latin America. Boogat’s music reflects his roots and his journey, as well as expressing his humanity both in its unity and its diversity—and for that, I say Merci!