Jerónimo Saer’s French mash-up is more rock than roll

Jerónimo Saer was rehearsing at the French Alliance yesterday
Jerónimo Saer rehearsed at the French Alliance

It seems out of character for the French Alliance to bring over a Franco-Argentine musician who plays a a true melting pot of genres including electro, hip hop, jazz, funk, rock, tango and flamenco to make one new nameless funky genre. A bit too cool for such a staid organisation, perhaps. But Jerónimo Saer, son of the late Argentine author Juan José Saer, is here and about to start touring Argentina and Uruguay.

Saer embarked on his musical career at the end of the 1980s with Department E, a ground-breaking hip-hop group on the French music scene, ground-breaking because of their unique live performances with musicians which was unusual at that time.

His most recent and first solo album, Machine Gum, was released back in 2007, first of all in Argentina before even his native France got to hear it and it’s a veritable mash-up of 21 tracks that incorporate all the aforementioned musical styles, plus sounds from the street — a woman selling products, kids playing, horns honking in Paris and Buenos Aires, all blending to give it an edgy and unique electro feel.

Saer begins his tour tomorrow, and will be playing with bassist Javier Malosetti and the electro-folk trio Tremor, while over the next two weeks he’ll be accompanied variously by Fauna, Third World Orchestra, Gustavo Lorenzatti, Fernando Caballero and Pyscho Project in Rosario, Mendoza and Córdoba as well as in Montevideo.

Saer took a breather from yesterday’s rehearsal with Tremor to chat to the Herald about his roots, his collaborations on this Argentine tour and Machine Gum.

Although he was raised in Europe there is still a part of him that feels Argentine, despite the fact he has never lived here. Saer says: “I was born in France and I’ve always lived there so yes, I’m French but I’ve always felt I’ve had two cultures in me. I do feel more French but my culture has always been mixed up and I’ve always lived close to plenty of Argentines and I appreciate that. It’s not like I’ve been totally disconnected from it — on the contrary.”

BUSINESS AND PLEASURE. He first came to Argentina aged one, then aged 10. “I came here on my own for the first time six years ago and it had a big impact on me. I went around recording sounds wherever I went, and from that moment the feeling become a lot stronger for me, so I now try to return here at least every two years. This is the fourth time I’ve been here in the past seven years, and every time I get more impatient about coming back. Although France is my home, it’s like coming back to my second place. That make me pretty lucky because I’m now able to mix music with pleasure, which couldn’t be better.”

Clearly Saer feels comfortable enough here as he’s considering dividing his life between the two countries. He adds. “I’m thinking about installing myself here, not permanently, but I’d love to spend a year here. It’s increasingly becoming 50-50.”

His most recent album Machine Gum actually came out in 2007, and plenty of the sounds that feature were taken from that first solo trip here. “I always mix up my tracks as I come from a hip-hop and electro background, and I like to take different sounds from various countries, sampling melodies but also using instruments from different places. Back in 2002 or 2003 when I first came here, I recorded on the streets, at carnivals, and I took all that material back to France to include it. I wanted Machine Gum to come out here first because of the fact that I feel increasingly Argentine. But I edited it further and released another version in France, which has nine tracks in common with the Argentine version as well as three new songs.”

Besides including a street ambience in his tracks, Saer is experimental with his instruments and uses an array of brightly coloured toys. “They are a little bit weird! I started off in music with a hip-hop group and then moved on to making electronic sounds. Originally I wanted to do just a hip-hop album but then I started to use funny little instruments (such as the melodica and the harmonica) as they sound more lively. It’s like having my own orchestra but it comprises kids’ toys. I buy cheap stuff from the market for my daughter but I end up wondering how I can use it instead!”

Although this isn’t the first time he has played Argentina, Saer will be mixing things up with local musicians. “I’m really looking forward to that as I’ve only ever played my own material, and solo, before. I’ve discovered loads of artists that I like so I’m really up for it. The concept of the tour is about playing my music with Argentine artists. I’ll start off on my own then the others will join me on stage for around seven tracks. I’m very impatient and happy but also a little bit nervous.”

Well, not long to wait now, Jerónimo. He plays La Trastienda with Tremor and Javier Malosetti Wednesday, 7 October.

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