Background: documentaries and research projects

Ideas don’t come out of the vacuum, and of course Tierra Fertil is no exception: it draws inspiration from great records that are just laying there —we shared some in this post—, but also from some projects that set out to unearth something lost, bring to light anonymous creations, or reveal a stories that were a mystery.

Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

This documentary tells the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a North-American musician comparable to Bob Dylan that was a sensation in South Africa in the 1970’s. His songs became true anthems in the fight against segregation, power abuse and censorship. 

Nonetheless, after his second album, Sixto would disappear mysteriously and release no more music or play live, leaving his fanbase trying to draw conclusions from a handful of rumors and assumptions regarding the circumstances of his death

In the mid 90’s, two of his fans set out to find what really happened to Rodriguez, and the story that unfolds is truly incredible.   

We strongly recommend not to read anything about it —or even watch the trailer— to avoid spoilers. Just dive into the film.

De Ushuaia A La Quiaca - From Ushuaia to La Quiaca (1985)

In the early 1980’s León Gieco —a young but already successful Argentine musician, who came from a folk-rock background and had started to experiment with South American folklore in his music— teams up with also young producer Gustavo Santaolalla to embark on a heroic deed that was un-thought back then: they mounted a recording studio in a van and filled another bus with their team and a film crew. With this group —and backed by the label Music Hall and by the success of Leon’s previous hits— they set out to do some fieldwork. 

Guided largely by musicologist Leda Valladares, they traveled all around the country recording local folklore musicians in their environments (houses, valleys, gulchs, forests, etc.) instead of taking them to professional but cold studios in the capital. The journey would bring them closer to the people, sharing the music and the singing, perfecting their vidalas, bagualas, chacareras and other genres. 

Worth of mention is the fact that it was the locals who would choose the majority of the repertoire —although it’s Gieco who sings most of the tracks—and that they included modern elements such as drum machines and electric guitars. Also noteworthy is the fact that one of the driving forces for the project was the disgust that Leon Gieco felt for the bland-post-dictatorship-rock that was popular at the time. Once again, the authentic and the long-lasting triumphing over fashion.

The four volumes can be streamed from the León Gieco profiles. There’s also a really good book with interviews, stories, pictures, lyrics, etc., and a documentary series on Canal Encuentro (only in Spanish for now).

Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

This documentary is not related to music, but connects to the project in the sense that it focuses on the work of a pretty much unknown artist, and on the enormous abundance that can be unearthed by following the trail of a hidden story.   

At an auction in a flea market, John Maloof —a young adult that would become the director of the movie— buys a box filled with negatives for a research project he was carrying out. When developing them he realizes they’re no good for his purpose, but that the quality of the work is exceptional. Unfolding the story he’s gonna discover and introduce to the world the work of a very talented, prolific, and up to that point anonymous street photographer.

You can watch it on Netflix.

The Case Of The Missing Hit (Podcast)

Even if this podcast appeared after the Tierra Fertil initiative started, it shares many key aspects, so welcome to the list. One of the most bizarre and compelling stories on musical investigation that was ever told on air. Independent newspaper The Guardian described it as “probably the best podcast episode ever”

This is the story: on of the hosts of the show Reply All —a podcast about how the internet shapes culture— wakes up one day with a song stuck in his head. A song he hadn’t heard in a very long time. He tries to find it but it’s not on the internet, and no one in his circle knows it. But he has a very vivid memory of the tune. Is it possible that he made it up?

Nonetheless, as the song won’t leave his mind, he will leave no stone unmoved until he finds it. 

You can stream it on Spotify and Apple Music

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