With a career spanning more than 30 years and a fan base that goes beyond her native Spain, spilling to every Latin American country and Latino USA, Olvido Gara, also known in the Latin pop world as Alaska y Dinarama (a group she formed with her musical partner Nacho Canut and Carlos G. Berlanga), has been rocking the scene in her own peculiar way giving us our own anthems that celebrated our individuality and right to be different before Madonna or Lady Gaga could say ah!
With the fall of the Franco Dictatorship in 1975, Spain experienced a collective sort of cultural coming out of the closet during its transition to democracy, and it happened in every social aspect of Spanish life. The arts flourished and artists all over the country were expressing their repressed freedom for the first time in almost 40 years. Music was no exception, and the punk movement inMadrid took hold in the late 70’s, becoming as vibrant and exotic as it was in its sister cities of London and Berlin.
So, it was in this collective liberation that Alaska was born in a Punk band in 1978 called Kaka Deluxe; a group of punk misfits determined to bring Punk Rock in their own language to the Spanish populace. After Kaka Deluxe Alaska joined Los Pegamoides and also had her first taste of cinematic fame in Almodovar’s 1980 campy comedy Pepi, Luci, Bom y Otras Chicas del Montón, which later opened the door to a TV stint in “La Bola de Cristal,” which she hosted for several years. Fast forward to 1984 when Alaska reinvents herself as Alaska y Dinarama, modifying and adapting her sound to the booming electro pop rock and new wave movement of the 80’s. It was in this decade that Alaska crossed the Atlantic pond to conquer the Americas, landing in conservative Mexico, where most Spanish artists came in the pursuit of fame and fortune, very much like their conquering ancestors. To date, Mexico is and has always been the diving platform for any Spanish artist hoping to conquer Latin America’s loyal fan base.
And it was during this vanilla pop rock environment of the booming 80’s that Alaska y Dinarama invaded the Americas, conquering Mexicans and Latinos all over the world with their debut album Canciones Profanas. Their follow up album Deseo Carnal (Lust of the Flesh) and and the hit single Ni Tu Ni Nadie, were truly the breaking point for the band and what made them a household name in the Latin rock scene. Gloria Trevi and Lady Gaga are tame compared to what Alaska had in store for us 27 years ago. On the album cover of Deseo Carnal, an unidentified muscular man’s back appears hinting his nudity below the waste, while Alaska wraps her arms with black long nails around him looking defiantly at the camera…yes, for a 14 year old that was soft porn at its best.
Unconventional and completely well ahead of her time, Alaska and her musical genius and partner Nacho Canut, went on to cause shock waves not only with their lyrics and stage personas, but also with the album covers, which seemed to be designed to push buttons and to a degree, destabilize the times’ status quou. On her third album with Alaska y Dinarama, No Es Pecado (It’s Not a Sin), Alaska appeared in a skimpy bikini, with the sides of her head completely shaved in perfect Mohawk fashion, dreadlocks pulled up in a high pony tail, sticking her tongue out while holding a chainsaw…an act of defiance no doubt, that back lashed in conservative Latin countries, but nonetheless became a major hit and a defining album in her career.
Ah! Alaska, the insatiable musical vampire was alive and well in all her glory. And it was No Es Pecado that truly catapulted Alaska y Dinarama to the top of the charts with her ode to her GLBT fan base: A Quien Le Importa, loosely translated to “Who Cares…” the I am what I am anthem of every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Latino in the Spanish speaking world. While Alaska y Dinarama continued to make more music inSpain and went on to reincarnate into Fangoria many years later (1990) along with Nacho Canut, in the U.S.the recollection of this long lost diva stopped at her last masterpiece released by EMI Latin in 1989 titled Fan Fatal. Though hard to find, Fan Fatal subsequently made its way in early 1990 to some US locations, and I was one of the few lucky fans to find it. Her discography is unrivaled and one of the most diverse you’ll find in Latin pop music.
Alaska and Nacho went on to morph their sound from rock and new wave to deep house and acid house to what they are today, the leading electro pop band in the Spanish language world. Fangoria is an addicting mix of Erasure and Pet Shop Boys with a twist of LaRoux and Blondie all combined into one hot electro pop dream.
I’ve been fortunate to have been following her career post Dinarama period, and rediscovered her as Fangoria on a trip toSpain many years ago. I couldn’t get enough! I had to get Un Dia Cualquiera en Vulcano S.E.P 3.0, and later on her most contemporary body of work: Naturaleza Muerta, Arquitectura Efimera, El Extraño Viaje, Absolutamente, and her latest double compilation album El Paseo Trascendental del Vodevil a la Astracanada (Antologia de Canciones de Ayer y Hoy) under Warner Music Spain.
In a recent sold out show at the Teatro Metropolitan in Mexico City, Fangoria took their packed eclectic audience, strangely comprised of families with kids, transvestites, transsexuals, gays, lesbians and heterosexual couples into a magical journey of a time machine, transporting me and everyone who was there to a time long gone of our youth and a decade (the 80’s) that defined Generation X. While her band name may be Fangoria now, to me, Alaska and Nacho Canut will forever be the artists that marked my life with hope, happiness and the idea that it was OK to be who I was, and that at the end of the day, everything was going to be fine, and that things would always get better before they got worse… and they were absolutely right.
Thank youAlaska and Nacho for providing the soundtrack to my life. I look forward to many more decades of Fangoria in my life.