Argentine rocker Gustavo Cordera’s latest album, Tecnoanimal, was launched at the beginning of last summer. The record, co-produced by Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13 fame, came out of the blocks backed, unsurprisingly given Cordera's fame in the country, by a comprehensive promotional campaign.
“The album had been well-received by critics and fans,” Sony Music Sur President Damian Amato tells Billboard. “It had a very promising start, and heavy rotation in streaming and radio.”
But not long after his album's promotional cycle began ramping up, Cordera told a mock press conference, held for an assembly of journalism students in Buenos Aires, that “there are women who need to be raped."
"There are women who need to be raped because they are hysterical -- because psychologically they need it and because they feel guilty and can’t have sex normally,” Cordera said during the Aug. 8 workshop at the Taller Escuela Agencia. Audio segments of the talk, in which female voices protesting his comments can also be heard, have been posted on Youtube. Referring to statutes outlawing sex with minors, he said, “if a 16-year-old girl with a hot p---y wants to f--k with you [and] you don’t f--k her, that’s an aberration.”
Cordera's statements quickly halted any momentum the promotion of his new album had, leading to the cancellation of his fall tour and the issuing of a statement from influential Buenos Aires radio station Rock & Pop saying it would no longer play Cordera’s music.
“We had to stop everything, because suddenly nobody was interested in the songs,” Amato concedes.
And yet, about a month after the controversy had erupted and Cordera had retreated from the public eye, he received word that "Fantasma Soy Yo," the debut single from his new album, was nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Rock Song.
“This was an unexpected gift that had a healing effect after everything that happened,” he told Bilboard.
A Latin Grammy spokesperson tells Billboard that the Latin Academy has no comment on the Cordera controversy, calling it “a personal matter.” Cordera says he wept when he found out.
Eduardo Cabra is nominated for a Producer of the Year award for his work on Cordera’s album and Spanish group Chambao’s Nuevo Ciclo. Cabra did not respond to requests from Billboard to comment on Cordera’s album and the recent events in Argentina.
“Many people were offended and those wounds still have to heal,” reasons Sony’s Amato. “Fortunately, the Latin Grammys focused on the album and its quality, in spite of the artist's mistakes. I think that Cordera now has to wait a bit more and start thinking about getting back to work”.
When the news of his comments broke, Cordera insisted that he had planned the provocative conversation in advance with the organizer of the event, with the idea of creating “psychodrama” on stage for the students’ benefit. The director of the school, Ingrid Beck, quickly and publicly denied Cordera's claim that the talk was premeditated.
The singer, who in the past has been known as an artist who speaks out about human rights and social issues, published a long apology for his remarks to Facebook, titled “Women, I’m Sorry.”
In an interview with Billboard last week, Cordera said he had listened to a full tape of his appearance at the school and said his comments were taken out of context. “I did not say what was published on social media,” he told Billboard in explaining. “I do not want to take this to court, but I think that many people will change their opinion if they wish to hear my side.”
Despite his wish to avoid it, the government-affiliated National Council of Women and the National Institute Against Discrimination (INADI) have filed complaints against Cordera in federal court after the remarks became public. The singer was further denounced in the Argentine Senate for making “discriminatory remarks” and “expressions of violence against women.”
“Gustavo Cordera is a leader for youth and a reference for many people,” Carla Majdalani, communications director for the country's National Council of Women tells Billboard. “We thought that it was imperative for us to say something and that is why we started this legal proceeding.”
Rampant discrimination and violence against women in Argentina did not start with Cordera's statements, however -- they are just the most recent example.
Today, (Oct.19) thousands of women are set to march and hold a day-long strike in Buenos Aires to protest what Majdalani calls “an epidemic of gender-based violence in Argentina.” A woman is murdered in Argentina every 30 hours, according to current statistics. The march comes a week after a 16-year-old girl was brutally raped and murdered in Mar del Plata, a city on Argentina’s coast. Two suspects have been arrested.
Women who’ve come together under the name No More Abusers and Rapists in Rock will also be marching in Buenos Aires today. The group formed after a 22-year-old posted videos on YouTube declaring that José Miguel del Pópolo, the singer of indie band La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau, had raped her. That was followed by six girls between the ages of 13 and 15 who accused Cristian Aldana, the 30-year-old singer of the well-known band El Otro Yo, of sexual abuse. Other women have since gone public with their own experiences with musicians.
”This is a movement to start really speaking it out loud,” says Majdalani. “And making that voice a part of rock-and-roll culture. This movement is saying this is abuse, it is illegal is is not right and it has nothing to do with rock and roll.”
Cordera’s own remarks about rape and underage girls were sparked when a student asked him to comment about the accusations facing Aldana.
“We of course understand that there is a huge difference between saying something and actually doing it,” says a spokesperson for the National Council for Women. “But when this comes from the mouth of a rock-and-roll icon, a person who has a capacity to influence others, we really need to stress that the way he presented his definition of rape made it sound natural, like what you are expected to do. That is really disturbing, because even though you are not saying you actually raped someone, you are saying it is OK.” Majdalani adds that under Argentina’s 2009 Violence Against Women Act, Cordera’s words can be considered “symbolic violence.”
“Now the case is in the hands of law,” she adds.
Chilean rapper Anita Tijoux called Cordera out in an interview with Chile’s El Ciudadano: “...accepting rape as if it were totally normal. Come on man, you are the father of a daughter!"
Cordera found some in the music community to speak out for him. Bersuit keyboard player Juan Subirá said in an interview with a local radio station that “it’s just sad and regrettable that Gustavo is saying such things but, on the other hand, it’s hard for me to believe he really thinks them.”
Radio personality Mario Pergolini gave Cordera pass in a statement that sounded unnervingly similar to Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” excuse.
“If he said that during a game of making a bunch of outrageous comments, I don’t think it’s that outrageous,” Pergolini said on air. “What’s outrageous in that case is that everyone would magnify it at such an extent.”
Many fans of Cordera’s music berated him on social media for what he said. Others defended him. Others felt torn between the man and his music.
“Is it normal to feel guilty about listening to Gustavo Cordera’s music after what he said?” asked one devotee on Twitter.
Cordera is now scheduled to perform in December in Cordoba, Argentina.