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Rodrigo and Gabriela

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Rodrigo y Gabriela

I just had to introduce this couple, Rodrigo and Gabriela! We were having our usual cappuccinos at Sinapsis when a guitar number came up on the speaker. I quickly asked Alex (who more or less runs the place) who was playing.

“That’s Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo and Gabriela for you guys. They started playing in Mexico City—someone spotted them, saw their talent, and they are now Mexico’s top guitar pair!” answered Alex.

Alex, who loves music and is a great bass guitar player, didn’t need much encouragement to tell us their entire story.

He began with, “I’m not making this stuff up.”

I took notes as Alex brought me up to date on Rodrigo and Gabriela.

First off, their music defies categorization—it’s a mix of metal, flamenco, blues, jazz and what have you, and they play without vocals.

Both Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintera grew up in middle-class homes in Mexico City.

When Rodrigo was 10, his older brother came home with a Metallica album (Gabriela’s aunt turned her on to the same band). This got them going with heavy metal music. Yes, heavy metal on the guitar, but the way it is played by Rodrigo and Gabriela it sounds like Flamenco on steroids.

In the early ’90s, Rodrigo formed a metal band called Tierra Acida with his brother. Gabriela joined them in 1993.

In 1997, Rodrigo and Gabriela left Mexico City for Ixtapa where they earned a living playing beachside bars—but mostly they practiced obsessively for hours—perfecting their style.

Alex was such a fan, he could even quote Rodrigo verbatim.

“When we left Mexico City it was like quitting the relationship with the music industry completely,” Rodrigo said. “We didn’t think about what we wanted to do. The only thing we agreed on was not to do anything but to play music.”

At one point Rodrigo suggested that they needed a drummer. Gabriela said, “No,” and that determined their style. Rodrigo played the melody with great improvisation and Gabriela provided the rhythm either with chords or by drumming and strumming on her guitar.

Yes, heavy metal on the guitar, but the way it is played by Rodrigo and Gabriela it sounds like Flamenco on steroids.

At 23, Rodrigo and Gabriela left for Ireland, hoping to play in bars for a living. When that didn’t pan out, Rodrigo and Gabriela started playing in the streets throughout Europe.

“It was scary sometimes, especially at the beginning,” Rodrigo had said. “Sometimes someone would steal your money and run. Other times you’d get a lot of money from someone who was rich and wanted to show affection for what you were playing.”

Playing on the street forced them to concentrate even more on their music and soon they found that their own tunes earned the most attention.

“We were practicing as if were about to play Radio City Music Hall,” Rodrigo said. “Writing music to play on the street—I don’t know where we got that. That was probably the reason we started to come together. It was very natural. We just decided to let the music flow.”

Rodrigo and Gabriela’s lucky break came when they got to be the opening act for the Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice, who’d seen them on the street. This led the pair to a release their first CD.

By the time they made their third CD, in 2006, it topped the Irish charts.

With 600,000 sales of their 2006 breakthrough CD Rodrigo and Gabriela played on tour from Japan to South Africa to the United States.

Rodrigo and Gabriela were a success!

“We always had enough money for our needs, for coffee and Guinness and our friends,” Rodrigo said. Well—now they have even more, both in terms of success and money.

“Thank’s, Alex,” I said, “You’re great at telling stories.”

“Yeah,” joined in Matthew.

“I know,” answered Alex.

“Ever thought of bein’ a famous guitarist?” asked Jim.

Alex smiled, and said, “Hey, I’d better get back waiting on tables.”

May I present Rodrigo y Gabriela!

Rodrigy y Gabriela top albums!

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