“The first thing that ever came out on the streets by Damas Gratis were some mixes I did at home,” Argentine singer Pablo Lescano recalls to Billboard Argentina as he drives through Tigre, a few miles from Buenos Aires.
Though he’s from San Fernando, the neighboring town, he grew up playing with his friends on the Delta. “I shared my first CD with my friends. Three months later, it was an unstoppable snowball. I wanted it to stop: I wasn’t well enough to do shows,” he shares. “The first ones I did on crutches. What happened is that the songs were downloaded through piracy.”
Lescano began writing while he spent a few months recovering from an accident. He used to play in a different cumbia group, but he had to step down to rest.
“Thanks to the first 3,000 pesos I had saved, I paid for 100 hours of recording at a studio. I cut the first record in 80 hours. I did what I wanted to do,” he recalls.
The Damas Gratis leader tried and tested the material in the streets. “We’d come to the neighborhood, open the car and blast the speakers. People couldn’t believe the lyrics, because we’d come from different kinds of cumbias,” he explains.
Damas Gratis was one of the pioneering bands in a movement that was dubbed at the beginning as “cumbia villera.” Nevertheless, he refuses to be tagged: “I do cumbia; you call it what you want.”
As he drives to the neighborhood, he changes the dial on the radio and puts on the community radio. “Listen to this: What a song. This is Flor de Piedra,” he identifies his pre-Damas Gratis outfit, while he simulates playing keyboards. “Damas Gratis grew thanks to community radios.”
On March 17, Lescano played <a href=”/articles/columns/latin/8249697/lollapalooza-argentina-camila-cabello-zara-larsson-chance-the-rapper-day-one”>Lollapalooza Argentina</a>. When the lineup was announced, they were at the center of a discussion regarding local bands’ participation.
“We went through something very similar in Mexico when we did a festival in Machaca. The Mexicans would say to us, ‘It’s great to see Damas Gratis playing in a ‘massive.’ When it came to Lollapalooza, Dante Spinetta called me up and said, ‘Dude, do you want to play at the Lollapalooza?’ I said to him, ‘Of course! Why wouldn’t I want to do such a festival?'” he recalls, laughing.
Always up to date, the musician begins to share the stages of different clubs with a new generation of artists. Trap and cumbia are meeting in the same halls. “My son has been listening to trap for two years now, the guys of El Quinto Escalón. In Mar del Plata, I’ve played the same places as <a href=”/articles/columns/latin/8257647/argentina-rapper-duki-trap-music-interview”>Duki</a>, for instance,” he shares.
“I’d like to do a Luna Park for my birthday, near the end of the year. If I don’t do a Luna Park, I’ll go back to Pacheco’s Tropitango [nightclub],” Lescano concludes.