Probably, the word that best synthesizes the multiple areas where Gustavo Santaolalla sets forth his work, is “visionary”: Singer, composer, producer, guitarist, player of charango and ronroco, discoverer of talent, director of a record label and a publishing company. His vision, firmly connected with seeking an identity, covers his entire search, since his beginnings at 16 years of age with the band Arco Iris, which later on would become a pioneer in the fusion of Latin American folklore and rock. As a performer, after Arco Iris he joined Soluna, and after moving to the United States in the late 70’s, he formed the band Wet Picnic, then began a solo career that includes three albums, among them Ronroco, a record of entirely instrumental music played on charango. Starting in 2002, Santaolalla combined his talents as producer, performer and composer in the collective Bajofondo (in its beginnings Bajofondo Tango Club), with which he has completed four albums.
As a producer, his career started with Leon Gieco’s first record in 1973, continued in the 80’s with iconic albums by G.I.T. and Divididos (La era de la Boludez), and at the end of that decade, with Mexican bands such as Maldita Vecindad and Café Tacuba, with these bands he set the pace for the movement known as “rock en español”. In 1997, along with his partner Aníbal Kerpel, he established his own record label, SURCO, whose first release was the Mexican band Molotov, an international success selling around 2,000,000 copies. An incomplete list of his productions includes the names of Bersuit, La Vela Puerca, Julieta Venegas, Jaime Torres, De La Guarda, Arbol, El Otro Yo, Juana Molina, Orozco-Barrientos, Kronos Quartet, Antonio Carmona and Juanes. With Café de los Maestros, the double album that brings together the most significant living legends of tango, Gustavo has won two Grammy awards.
The inclusion of one of the songs from Ronroco in the soundtrack of “The Insider” (Michael Mann, 1999), was the first step in his career as composer of soundtracks, working on films of some of today’s most important directors, such as Ang Lee, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Walter Salles. Santaolalla was brilliant on iconic movies such as “Amores Perros”, “21 Grams”, “Motorcycle Diaries”, “Tierra Fría”, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Babel”; with these movies he has won numerous awards, among them the BAFTA and the Golden Globe, winning two Oscars in a row from Hollywood’s Academy, for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Babel”. Among the numerous awards and distinctions received by Gustavo, besides the ones listed above, we can mention the Premio Gardel, the Konex de Platino, Personalidad del Año (CAPIF), and multiple Grammy awards in various categories.