Ruben Blades is Not My Name

Rubén Blades is not my name/Yo no me llamo Rubén Blades is the feature film at the Closing Night of this year’s Sydney Latin American Film Festival. The film, which won the Audience Award at the 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival, explores the diverse life and legacy of Latin American icon Rubén Blades.

Panamanian-born Rubén Blades is a man of many talents. He is a Harvard law school graduate. He is an influential musician, who has shaped the development of salsa music over the past 50 years. He is an actor who has appeared in dozens of television series and films, such as The X-Files, Predator 2 and Fear the Walking Dead. He is also a political figure and activist. In 1993, Blades founded a progressive political party in Panamá called Movemiento Papa Egoró, which roughly translates to “Mother Earth Movement.” In 1994, with the support of his party, he ran as a presidential candidate. He ultimately came third in the elections. From 2004 to 2009, he was the Minister for Tourism in Panamá.

 

Blades is arguably best known for his impact as a singer, songwriter and musician. He worked for leading New York salsa record label Fania Records, which was home to influential Latin artists like Celia Cruz, Willie Colon and Tito Puente. In 1978, he released the album Siembra (Planting) alongside Willie Colon; it became the highest selling salsa album of its time.

Blades’ music is characterised by its ability to seamlessly weave energetic salsa rhythms with nuanced, realistic stories and political meaning. His song Tiburón (The Shark) alludes to and criticises the presence of the United States in Latin America. Prohibido Olvidar (Do Not Forget) compels listeners to never forget the brutalities of past dictatorships, so that such political regimes do not arise again. Plástico (Plastic) comments on the rise of consumerism and superficiality in modern society. Pedro Navaja, perhaps Blades’ most famous song, tells the story of a thug who stabs a prostitute and, in the process, is unexpectedly shot by her. The song is regarded as raw and realistic portrayal of the volatility of certain barrios (neighbourhoods) in the 1970s and 1980s.

Over the past five decades, Blades has received widespread praise and recognition for his music. His 1978 album Siembra, released in collaboration with Willie Colon, became the highest selling salsa album of its time. He has also won 9 Grammys and 8 Latin Grammys. At the age of 70, Blades continues to tour internationally.

Keen to learn more about Rubén Blades? Come along to SLAFF’s Closing Night at 6:45pm on Wednesday 12 September 2018 at Dendy Opera Quays! Grab your tickets here.