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by Jeffery Dingler
Photos: J. Dingler
Los Chocolatinos is a Latin music group that has been playing in and around Madrid for more than twelve years. After seeing one of their shows at Café Berlín, I was impressed not just with the cohesiveness of the band but also with the verve with which the audience received their music (there was some serious dancing going on). From watching the different members interact on stage it was clear to me that this was a group of professionals who loved what they did. I wondered what it took to make it in a city like Madrid. Luckily, I was able to snag an interview with one of the band members, Julián Olivares, and pick his brain a little about the music scene here in Madrid.
JEFF DINGLER: Hey Julián, my first question is, did you start with Los Chocolatinos, and who were the founding members of the band?
JULIÁN: I started with the band. We had a different singer for the first year and a half, then he went to Colombia and Alejandro Gutiérrez became the singer. Everyone else has also been the same from the beginning.
JEFF: The music is a real fusion of different elements. Did this sound emerge from the instruments and influences you guys already had, or was it something you consciously had to shape and create?
JULIÁN: The sound comes from the instrument set up: septet cubano, which is very similar to our formation. The difference is that we don’t play only Cuban folk music (son cubano). We also mix it with salsa, timba, and a bit of Spanish and other American music styles. You could say we play some modern styles with an older orchestration.
JEFF: How has the music scene changed in twelve years?
JULIÁN: The scene became smaller with the crisis in 2009, but right now [it] is again a good one; there are many nice places for live music in Madrid. The Latin scene has grown a lot in the last years. Right now salsa and other styles are way more popular than before.
JEFF: And how has the Internet changed things for the group?
JULIÁN: Overall positive. We never had a manager or a label so the Internet gave us lots of tools to promote the band. I believe it’s harder to make money from selling your music; you can sell lots but just make a little money.
JEFF: How would you describe the life of a professional musician in Madrid?
JULIÁN: I’d say it’s very nice as long as you have enough work to make a living. It is lots of fun and it’s probably the best place in Spain for being a professional musician. I suppose it is like everywhere else, a nonstop job, but I love it!
JEFF: And if it’s not a good show, what keeps you going—the music, the paycheck?
JULIÁN: The music, there is some sense of making it right and proper at all costs. It’s never about the paycheck during the show. After, it’s another story.
JEFF: Awesome, thank you for your time! Anything else you’d like me to add?
JULIÁN: We play every Monday at “La Negra Tomasa” at 11:30.
Julián Olivares—tres cubano
Jeff Dingler is a writer and actor who has won several awards including B-Metro’s B-published fiction contest (2015) for his short story “For Fred with the Rose-Colored Smile” as well as scholarships to the New York State Summer Writers Institute (2015 and 2017). He graduated summa cum laude from Skidmore College and Wallace State Community College. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY but has recently relocated to Madrid which may or may not be on a temporary basis.
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