Aterciopelados Releases Live Anniversary Edition of ‘El Dorado’: ‘The Challenge Was to Bring It to the Future’

Revisiting the entirety of El Dorado for a live 25th anniversary edition — which ended up materializing a few years later due to the coronavirus pandemic — was something special for Aterciopelados, the Colombian rock group led by vocalist Andrea Echeverri and producer Héctor Buitrago.

“Facing a repertoire from 28 years ago is difficult, you are not the same anymore,” Echeverri admits in an interview with Billboard Español. “The challenge was to retake that album that had a ’90s sound, bring it to the future, and preserve the essence of that era, but make it sound more appropriate for these times,” adds Buitrago.

Today (March 15), they release El Dorado Live, a version of the seminal ’90s Colombian rock album that made them transcend the boundaries of their country, with classics like “Florecita Rockera,” “Siervo sin Tierra” and “De Tripas Corazón.” Recorded on April 22, 2023, at the Palacio de los Deportes in Bogota, the new independent production features the 16 songs from the original LP, with the participation of Café Tacvba‘s Rubén Albarrán on “Mujer Gala” and “La Estaca,” and Carlos Vives on “Bolero Falaz.” The project includes videos for each song that have been released on Aterciopelados’ YouTube channel, with Vives’ debuting Thursday night, just hours before the album came out.

“Aterciopelados for me is one of the gods of Bogota rock with whom I grew up,” Vives said in a press release. “For me, it is an honor to sing this song with them.”

The release will be followed by the El Dorado Tour, a 12-date North American journey that begins on April 9 in Phoenix and will make stops at cities such as Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Miami, before ending on April 27 in Toronto (for the entire itinerary, click here).

Echeverri and Buitrago were young idealists and dreamers when they debuted as Aterciopelados in 1993 with the album Con El Corazón en la Mano, in which they mixed their punk rock influences with sounds of Colombian folk. But it was El Dorado, released on October 24, 1995, through Sony BMG, that put them on the international map, with an original sound and relevant lyrics on ecology, feminism and human rights.

“We are not [academic] musicians, it’s all very much by ear and sensitivity,” explains Echeverri. “I think that because of that … we have done things in different ways, and we come out with all kinds of weird things that work great.”

Three-time Latin Grammy winners, and five-time Grammy nominees, Aterciopelados has appeared on the Billboard charts with their album Gozo Poderoso (2001), which reached No. 11 on Top Latin Albums and No. 7 on Latin Pop Albums, while their song “El Álbum” (from that same set) entered the Latin Pop Airplay ranking.

In 2021 they released their latest studio album, Tropiplop, while their last single was “Liberté” with Dr. Shenka, Susana Baca, and Bunbury, released in December 2023. They are currently working on a new album that they hope to put out before the end of this year. Echeverri and Buitrago discuss returning to El Dorado below.

It’s been 28 years since the release of El Dorado. What was it like to re-live the entire album after so much time?

Echeverri: Well, we were going to celebrate the 25th [anniversary] because a big festival here [in Colombia] had suggested it, but then the pandemic happened. That’s why it ended up being the 28th, which is kind of an odd date. What did we feel? Many things, because facing a repertoire from 28 years ago is difficult, you are not the same anymore. At least vocally, I suffered, because I used to have a light, naive girl’s voice, and now I have a more mature woman’s voice. [Laughs.]

What songs were particularly challenging for you?

Echeverri: All of them! In fact, I changed my vocal coach, I worked on the whole thing. The idea was not to sound the same as before. The idea was more about adjusting the songs to my current sound, which is what we achieved. But there are also many very fast songs, there are many very fierce ones, like “Pilas,” like “No Futuro,” which we have never stopped singing … It was a challenging and difficult process, but in the end I think we pulled it off. The other day I was listening to it, and it does sound powerful, with a thick, strong voice, beautiful.

Hector, what was the hardest thing for you?

Buitrago: The challenge was to retake that album that had a ’90s sound, bring it to the future, and preserve the essence of that era — but make it sound more appropriate for these times. We did the work all these previous months where we rehearsed the songs, and I think we achieved a balance between everything we were thinking we wanted to do with this album. In my case, it was also stressful because I was the producer, but there were also many more details — and it’s an album that we released independently, so we had to keep an eye on the cameras, the lights, the video, the guest musicians…

Echeverri: …the set design, the costumes… and also put out the money! That’s also hard. [Laughs.]

Can you give us an example of a song that particularly changed to make it more current?

Echeverri: I think the most noticeable one is “Tripas,” because we didn’t have a keyboard back then.

Buitrago: Yeah, “De Tripas Corazón” was perhaps the rockiest one, the one we felt was the most repetitive and was going to sound more like the ’90s, so we added a keyboard there. Let’s say that was the only one we transformed that much. The rest are closer to their time.

Many things have happened in your lives and in the industry since you released El Dorado. Do you still identify with your songs in the same way?

Echeverri: I think that in the midst of the difficulty, the tension, the most beautiful thing was to meet the songs again, because they were songs that we wrote years ago. We are not [academic] musicians, everything is very much by ear and sensitivity, but when you hear the songs you say “Wow, we were good!”

I think the one that impacted Héctor and me the most was “Siervo Sin Tierra.” In fact, yesterday, when I was watching the [concert] videos, at “Siervo Sin Tierra,” many people cry. We cried during rehearsals.

Aterciopelados has created an important legacy for rock en Español and has been a great influence for other artists. How do you feel about it?

Echeverri: I think that precisely because we are not academic musicians, we have done things in different ways, and we come up with all kinds of weird things that work great … But I think the legacy perhaps also comes more from the identity side and the conceptual side because, from the beginning, Aterciopelados has been talking about feminism, environmentalism and anti-war themes, when these were not such common topics.

Many of your songs are still relevant 25 years later. Did you think back then that you were creating anthems?

Echeverri: I think we’ve always been ahead of our time. [Laughs.] But did we think it was going to last? No! I think that precisely because we went from rehearsing in a laundromat … to recording albums, we were very inexperienced, very naive. But we were also kind of punk, so we were very bold. I think nobody imagined anything. And there was not even a music scene in Colombia, you did it because it was fun, because it was good to do it.

Buitrago: But later we found out that yes, there were many bands that said that Aterciopelados had been an influence at some point at the beginning of their careers, that they saw Andrea or saw Aterciopelados and were inspired by the lyrics, by the attitude.

Today Colombia is a great exporter of music, with many artists entering the Billboard charts and touring globally. How do you see the current music scene in your country?

Buitrago: I feel that everything that happened in the ’90s, when there was no scene — there were not even stages, there were no festivals — that’s when everything began to grow, an infrastructure began to be generated that did not exist before: managers, technicians, recording studios … and I think that what began to develop at that time is what makes Colombian music be everywhere today.

What is happening currently with Colombian music is, first, the reflection of a country that has many geographies and therefore also a lot of sound richness — there are not only Caribbean sounds but there are Pacific sounds, sounds from the coasts but also from the inland. All this richness is now being shown to the world with a very powerful infrastructure.

Listen to El Dorado En Vivo by Aterciopelados here:

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