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Todos Tus Muertos' Anger Needs No Translation

Pop music: The Argentine band's forceful political lyrics rail against global racism, among other topics, with reggae-laced, punk-edged, African rhythms.

August 23, 1996|ENRIQUE LAVIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Todos Tus Muertos doesn't pussyfoot around.

The influential Argentine punk band comes straight at you with its volatile and often taunting music, targeting, among other topics, agrarian land reform movements in Latin America, immigrant abuses and global racism.

Onstage, its unfettered, energetic music--punk-edged raps and African rhythms laced with playful reggae grooves--unleashes an anger sung largely in Spanish but recognizable in any language.

"Our sound is a projection of our lyrics," Ernesto Fidel Nadal, the 30-year-old lead singer of the Buenos Aires quintet, said before a sound check at a Los Angeles club recently. "You will probably imagine more if you don't understand the lyrics. . . . [That sound] is why our audience knows we are revolutionary."

Todos Tus Muertos (All Your Dead), which plays tonight at El Pirata nightclub in Santa Ana, takes its name from the roughly 30,000 people killed under military rule in Argentina during the late '70s dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla. Percussionist and vocalist Pablo "Dronkit Master" Molina, guitarist Horacio Gamexane Villafane, drummer Pablo Potenzoni and bassist Felix Gutierrez round out the group roster, but it is Nadal who is the most outspoken member.

As a child growing up in one of the few black families remaining in Argentina, Nadal--who was named for both Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Cuban President Fidel Castro--found his social consciousness fueled by his Marxist-Leninist father, Enrique.

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"My father has always been a revolutionary, fighting against the apartheid in Argentina," said Nadal, who describes himself as a Rastafarian. "He was subjected to various tortures and had to live in exile for 10 years. . . . I absorbed a lot of my father's ideas but I don't consider myself a Marxist."

Nadal's forceful political lyrics predate those of Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha, but recall the outrage expressed in lyrics by controversial Compton-based rap group NWA that called for changes within a disenfranchised black community plagued by urban gang warfare in the late 1980s.

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On their 1994 album, "Dale Aborigen" (Go on Aborigine), Nadal and his band mates worked with leaders of two of Europe's most important punk bands: Manu Chao of the French-Spanish group Mano Negra, and Fermin Muguruza of Negu Gorriak, a Basque group with a separatist agenda. Those European groups have also influenced other bands closer to home, such as Mexican-border band Tijuana No.

The "Dale Aborigen" album is an overt tribute to revolutionary world leaders: "Alerta Guerrillas" (which roughly translates to "guerrillas to arms") recalls Emiliano Zapata; "Mandela" praises the end of apartheid in South Africa. But other songs, such as "Trece" (Thirteen), speak about physical and psychological abuses perpetrated by governments.

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"Dale Aborigen" and last year's live album, "Argentina te Asesina" (Argentina Murders You), were both released under independent label Del Cielito. They attracted the attention of former Bad Religion member Jay B. Ziskrout, who recently signed Todos Tus Muertos to his fledging alternative Latin label, Grita!

Named the best international group of 1995 by La Banda Elastica, a national rock en espanol magazine, Todos Tus Muertos--or TTM as it is known to fans--has been touring in support of the "Dale Aborigen" album. When the group played to a packed house at the Troubador in L.A. recently, Nadal's constant pacing and jumping to the rhythmic bounce of the band's jolting music often gave the sensation of a zealous political rally. Enthusiastic fans followed his lead, either moshing or jumping to a frenzy, raising their fists in salute.

So if the in-concert Todos Tus Muertos doesn't raise everyone's political awareness, it certainly seems capable of raising the dead.

* Todos Tus Muertos plays tonight at El Pirata nightclub at the Saddleback Inn, 1660 E. 1st St., Santa Ana. 8 p.m. $15. (714) 680-0804.

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