Interview: Q&A with Leo Fernández, Che Sudaka – ‘Indios de Barcelona’ (September 2018)

There was a time, at the turn of the century, when the so-called patchanka (also defined as rock mestizo, rock metis or alt-Latino) finally enjoyed the fruits of two decades of underground music militancy. Manu Chao, Barcelona and its Ramblas, and the anti-globalization movement became the protagonists and subjects of a popularity shake-up, giving sustenance to a widespread sub-cultural scene uniting South America and Mediterranean countries.

Among the dozens of bands born in those years, only a few had the creative stamina to last until today, and even fewer had the strength to project their sound into the future. We had the pleasure to reach one of those “rare birds”: Che Sudaka. The Barcelona-based group, composed by Colombian and Argentinian musicians, is probably one of the most fitting (surely one of the most successful) embodiments of what patchanka is and how it should sound today…and in their words, the style, which has also become an attitude and possibly a way of thinking, is as vital as ever.

A sixteen-year career is a pretty remarkable accomplishment. Even more so, if we consider today’s music scene with its continual coming and going of bands. What’s the secret of your long-lasting music journey?

Che Sudaka has always been part of our lives. We never considered it as something apart. That is why we are here and still wanting it to last forever.”

Many, many things have changed since you started playing together, both in your sound and the music scene you relate to. If you have to mention the most significant changes, what would you choose and why?

“The most significant change was to convince us that we do not need anything more than ourselves being happy to carry out our work. Since we have understood this, all the rest flows and grows in a healthy and organic way.”

Che Sudaka formed in Barcelona, but your heart is in Colombia and Argentina as well. You have also played hundreds of times in South America. What are the main differences between playing music there and in Spain? Is there any difference in the audience’s reaction to your music?

“The biggest difference is the media and support that culture receives here in Europe.

While in Latin America, everything related to art has less support. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of great bands and artists coming from Latin America.  

About the audience, we would say that we can’t see any big differences. We always want to share something with the audience, therefore there are no differences on the human level, and the result is constantly the same. Our band is happy if the audience is happy and if we can share a moment of harmony with them. That’s the case in Germany, like in Colombia, France or Chile.”

I’ve read that you have played more than 1400 gigs. What is it that always stimulates and gives you new inspiration to jump on stage and get your audience dancing? Is there also a place/city that you prefer or feel particularly attached to?

The greatest motivation that moves us is that we do something that we are deeply passionate about and which gives back to us all the time, and the love we dedicate to it is multiplied by a thousand times. 

That’s why it would be unfair to choose only one place as our favourite. Every day and every place where we set foot, we try to make it the most important moment. By living in the present, we have a fabulous past. And we try to enjoy what is coming for what it is, the real thing. Here and now.”

Your music deeply embodies the city where you live. What’s your relationship with Barcelona and how the city has recently changed, especially considering the Independence movement?

“Barcelona is our place in this world. It would be very difficult to leave. The city gave us everything. It adopted us. It brought us up. It educated us and now sends us around the world to represent it wherever we go. It’s our house. To come back is always beautiful. The only independence we believe in is the one that begins with the individual. That is our philosophy. The war is inside”.

How have the recent news stories influenced the cultural and musical scene in Barcelona? How are musicians dealing with what is going on? 

“Actually, around 90% of our work takes place outside of Catalonia and Spain. In Barcelona, it was always difficult to perform, because there is no circuit. It is not a new problem and is not to do with political changes. Hopefully, there will be a treatment towards culture like the one towards the ‘intermitentes’ in France. That would help to create more and better bands.”

Your latest album (titled Alma Rebeldes and published in 2017) is studded with collaborations. How do you choose who to work with and what do you look forward to finding/learning/gathering from collaborations?

“The collaborations on the latest album are like old dreams that became true. All the persons who collaborated with us are traveling companions, masters since forever. With all of them, we have had a strong relationship for years. It’s great to have been able to share songs with Manu Chao, Amparo Sanchez, Dr Ring Ding, BNegao, El Gran Silencio, Jupiter & Okwess. It was pure art!”

It’s a bit sad, but apart from you and your guests on Almas Rebeldes, there are not many other musicians who are trying to bring forward what the patchanka movement stood for. There are very few artists who are still trying to make sense of the globalization idea and make good use of it. How do you feel about it and how can music help? 

“Music is a great reason for the union of people. Everything is music. The planet is just one. We are all just one. Whoever does not feel it this way will be in trouble; which is not our case. We are happy to have understood that. Life is too short to live divided. In happy hearts and in empathy lies the solution to all problems. And with music, it’s much easier.”

Let’s go back to Barcelona, because many of the musicians who joined you on the album are also from the Catalan city. What can you tell us about the music scene there and who should we listen to among its new names?

In Catalonia, there is a phenomenal new music scene that is exploding. There’s a young and new audience, which follows the new bands massively. Today, in this new generation of Catalan music, you can feel the influences of those times in which Che Sudaka and many of our friends started. The most representative bands of the movement are our friends from La Pegatina and Txarango. Furthermore, there comes with force Segonama (with whom we collaborated on their new album), Dr Prats, La Sra. Tomasa and, on a more underground level but with a lot of energy, Festucs.

What are you listening to at the moment? Is there any musician/band who has influenced Almas Rebeldes?

We listen to a lot of music from all over the world, but in recent times, we love Latin American folklore (which represents our roots). The greatest inspiration comes from the drums of Colombian folklore. On the message level, the greatest influence is Facundo Cabral (Argentinian singer-songwriter who died in 2011) who appears in some passages of the album. We can definitely say that the cultural identity of the band is fully represented in Almas Rebeldes.

Apart from touring, which is something that you have never stopped doing and we don’t think you will stop doing any time soon, what are your plans for the future?

“Our plan for the future is to live in the present in the most peaceful and harmonious way possible, enjoying how lucky we are doing what we love and filling the planet with music. Sharing is our mission. Creating in freedom, with generosity and love.”

The last canonical question we ask our interviewees is, how would you introduce your band and your music to someone who has never listened to you.

We are a bunch of people who found in music the most powerful weapon to transmit the messages of our souls. Our rebellion is the laughter… what we call “la risa bonita”. Our mission is to celebrate life as one big family. Bienvenidos a nuestra casa. Siempre…arriba la vaina hasta ke choke china kon afrika!