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rafa berrio: la mirada triste y el paso lento uxeta labrit   There are people who, while not sad, had a sad look to their eyes. Sometimes it’s the shape of the eyelashes, sometimes the depth of the eye-sockets or the sparkle in a person’s eye. If you take a look back through photographs, you’ll see that musician Rafa Berrio has always had a melancholic sheen to his eyes. A sad look and a faint step. More than faint, the word is slow. Because Lento (Slow) was his dog’s name and because he used to walk around the streets of San Sebastian at his dog’s pace. Rafa Berrio and his music have been subject to many different labels. This is the normal consequence of a long career. Each different musical period brings with it a new set of singers and bands. And these same new periods often herald the disappearance of others. Rafa Berrio started in the 80s and has been around ever since. We wouldn’t really be able to define that ‘around’, because rather than being a physical place, it’s a more of a space, often invisible. Berrio has cut out his own path along the way, many times going against the currents of the times. This attitude didn’t come about as a matter of choice. The same way salmon do not choose to swim upriver.
He started off in the band UHF in the 80s. One of the bands that created what was then known as the “Donostia Sound”. They released their New-Wave-ish UHF in 1981 on the mythical record label Shanti Records in San Sebastian. A whole decade passed before he was back with another recording project Amor a Traición. There were definite shades of Dylan on his 1993 Amor a traición on Warner. Great reviews and poor sales. Classic. He left Warner and recorded the Diego Vasallo produced limited-edition album Una canción de mala muerte in 1997. He then recorded new material with his life-long collaborater Iñaki de Lucas and released it as the album Planes de Fuga under the moniker of Deriva in 2000. He was back with the beautiful Harresilanda in 2005. Joserra Senperena produced his latest record. A piece of work called 1971 that he released in 2010. Once again, it has been lauded by critics. His fans have also hailed and welcomed this end to five years’ silence. Some people see Lou Reed in Berrio’s lyrics. Others compare him to Cohen. I think he sounds like Berrio. The same Berrio who sat down and played us a few songs in front of a fish stall in a shopping centre in Gros, San Sebastian, or who has over the years given us some delectable concerts in smoke-filled bars here and there.
I don’t know Rafa Berrio. I have gone to his concerts and have, on a couple of occasions, through friends in common, exchanged a few words with him. It’s not a difficult thing to do. Berrio is a street person. At one stage, back in the day, he would take his dog Lento everywhere with him. And the dog would never take its eyes off the singer. Nowadays, I sometimes see him framed in the door of a bar with a cigar in hand, talking to friends or maybe just gazing up at the sky. In this day and age when nobody buys records anymore he has probably received his best ever reviews. It could only happen to one who swims against the current. God bless him.