Martín Pérez

Interview to the guitarist Juanjo Domínguez

was born in Junín but soon we settled in the city of Lanús (southern suburban area of the Federal Capital).

«I played with everybody and I have a hundred and thirty albums accompanying other artists and twenty-four of my own. In 2005 I presented ‘live’ the one I entitled ‘Eterno’ [Eternal]. (In 2009 he released his latest album ‘Sin red’[Without net]).

«Even though I played guitar for the rest of my life, I would never be able to give the guitar all the things it gave to me. When I was five and saw my dad who was playing his guitar, trying something and being unable to succeed, I realized what it was, I asked him the guitar and played it. After that my old man never played again and sent me to study. One day, I was six already, crying, I asked mom that she would take to see a movie in which Hugo Del Carril impersonated Carlos Gardel. Then I had a mess in my head because since then I had been thinking that Hugo was Gardel. I was unable to understand it. When the friends of my parents realized I was a fan, they began to bring me things connected with Gardel, and I told them: but this one isn’t him!

«Many times they asked me: How on earth a boy raised in Lanús, with a father who liked guitar but who retired as baker, with a mother that liked singing and sometimes held a bandoneon and played some notes, finally ended up devoting himself to tango? I don’t know, it happened that way. Because it was what I was looking for. Because when I was a kid, every time I heard a tango I was touched. That happens to me still today. But I’ve made up my mind: I won’t release albums as soloist any more even though I’ll go on making live performances. Of course, I’ll keep on playing but I have the healthy intention of being able to decide when to leave the party. There are people who do not know that’s advisable to leave even though the party is at its best and finally they are carried out as drunkards. That won’t happen to me. I say hello to everybody and I leave in the best way. I don’t want to make money, I don’t want to be famous. For me it’s enough that the one who knows me, loves me. In Japan I bought a guitar with a fingerboard narrower than what is usual and with two more frets. “You bought a problem”, they told me. Yes, but I do it on purpose, I replied. Because I like challenges so as not to fall asleep. Because I like to stay wide awake.

«When people talk about tango I’m always alert in case they dig, for example, at Roberto Goyeneche. They have said a lot of silly things about him. When I was twenty and he was many years more, we went out on tour, we even slept in the same room and in the morning he had breakfast with a moscato (muscat wine), but for me a soda water or coffee, he never tried to influence me, he didn’t overstep his boundaries. He cared for his environment. He was a gentleman onstage.

«It’s true that I backed a lot of artists, but it was hard for me to get adjusted to them because they all belonged to a previous generation, until the time I fit into them and grew accustomed to handle myself alone. For eight years I was the staff guitarist of Caño 14. They had hired me for three months and I stayed until its closure in 1984. Generally, at the end of my gig I used to go to El Viejo Almacén to listen to the singer Edmundo Rivero with the guitarist Roberto Grela.

«I don’t admit when people say ugly things about tango, it’s as if they were swearing me or insulting my Fatherland. I saw a guy like Daniel Melingo drinking from a bottle onstage, something that I had never seen, a lack of respect that offends culture, not only our genre. When I backed Andrés Calamaro in some tangos, I told him that if he belittled or ridiculed tango, he wouldn’t count on me. But Andrés is an educated guy, full of respect. With Calamaro I cut an album which was entitled ‘El cantante’. I want to pass on to him all I know. Now I’m interested in what seems different to me, it’s what carries weight.

«I come back to Goyeneche, with the little rest of voice he had he surpassed everybody. Why? Because he was different. And that’s worthwhile and what I want to listen to».

Juanjo Domínguez began to study at the Conservatorio Oliva, in Lanús. At age 12 he graduated as professor in guitar playing, theory and music reading. He continued at the Conservatorio Julián Aguirre, in Lomas de Zamora, where his teacher was María Angélica Funes, a disciple of María Luisa Anido’s. At age 15 he switched to popular music by backing the Chilean melodic singer Rosamel Araya, and also he joined the Trío Los Antonios.

Juanjo is a virtuoso, his two-string scales, his three-string tremolos of his own invention, his speed and the outstanding level of his improvisation make him a unique guitarist. Even though he specialized in tango, he also likes playing our folk music and noteworthy classical pieces in his instrument. He admitted having taken inspiration from the famous Paraguayan Agustín Barrios.

Excerpted from Radar, supplement of the Página/12 journal, January 30, 2006.