For the past three years, Huatulco audiences have thrilled to the fabulous sound of the David Rotundo Blues Band. They perform two benefit concerts annually for “Un Nuevo Amanacer”. We all love his music, but who is David Rotundo?
Growing up, Rotundo had absolutely no musical background Hearing David Cotton play at Toronto’s “El Mocambo” tavern in 1991 was a turning point in his life. The following day he bought his first harmonica. His current collection exceeds 100. He explained humbly that this is not like owning 100 guitars. Most harmonicas come in sets and different instruments play different keys. During a concert he may use six or seven different ones.
In 1995 and 1996 David Rotundo toured the centers of American Blues honing his skills and emerging with his own authentic techniques. In 2001, his first album “Blowing for Broke” featured 12 original songs and was nominated by the “Canadian Independent Blues Association” for “Album of the Year”. He won the “Maple Blues” award in 2002 for “Best New Artist” and again in 2007 as “Harmonica Player of the Year”.
Not only can Rotundo belt out a tune but he also has a compelling stage presence… and this man can dance! When David Rotundo comes on stage he oozes energy. The audience lights up as if an electrical charge is surging through the venue. I asked him about this “It’s not mine” he said. “I try to be a conduit… According to Neil Young ¨ the more you think the more you stink¨. When I hear the band playing something takes over. One time on tour I had completely lost my voice, I could barely whisper. I’d asked one of the guys to sing for me but not wanting the audience to feel cheated, I thought I’d try the opening number. Once I began singing, I sang all night, it was incredible! The next day I had no voice, nothing.”
I asked what it is about Blues that inspires him. “It’s the most honest, unpretentious, guttural music and you feel it as much as you hear it, it’s a crying pleading sound.” Then he pulled out a harmonica and played a lick. “You don’t find those notes in rock and roll. This goes deeper; the old work songs both the lyrics and the music are filled with passion but you don’t really need to hear the lyrics to feel the emotion.”
David’s home is Toronto but, as with many musicians, he is on the road much of the time. He regularly tours in Canada, Mexico, South America, and both East and West Europe. I asked him why the USA was not on his list. He would love to play in America where the Blues has its roots; unfortunately getting visas is a logistical nightmare for an “independent” artist. This surprised me since many Canadians have made their careers in the USA so he gave me an education about the American music industry.
David refers to his group as an “Underground Band”. This is an “independent band” that has not signed a contract with a major label. Once you sign, according to Rotundo, the label company takes over and books all your appearances.
“It owns you and all your material. They tell you where and when you’ll tour, what songs you’ll play, which ones you’ll record how many recordings you’ll make.” David says. “You have to make a lot of compromises. You loose your identity; you loose your soul.” Some but not all make a lot of money with a label contact but for David and his associates it’s the music not the money that drives them.
Up to this point, he has produced his own CDs in small studios. He would love the opportunity to produce a CD in a professional studio but is unwilling to sacrifice his identity by signing with a major label.
I asked David if touring ever gets tiring? “Music is the center piece of my life” he says “It’s a full-time job, everything revolves around it but you need to find a balance or it can eat you up. So many of the greats fell victim to this… you’ve got to take some time for yourself.”
Perhaps this is why David spends three or four months a year in the Huatulco region and would love to spend even more time here. “There is a kind of magnetic force that keeps drawing me here, something magical. It is deeper than I can explain”.
When I asked if we were going to see him again next year he replied with a huge grin “Whether you like it or not!” About playing in Huatulco he says “I love the crowd, I love coming here and supporting what Un Nuevo Amanacer is doing… there are great vibes, great people.”
Brooke Gazer operates a bed and breakfast “Agua Azul la Villa” in Huatulco http://www.bbaguaazul.com
Un Nuevo Amanecer: (UNA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with mental and physical disabilities. They have 75-80 clients a year in ages ranging from a few months to 16 years. This dedicated group of teachers, therapists and volunteers treat a wide rang of disabilities. They provide services that include teaching sign language, providing speech, physical, and occupational therapy, community awareness programs and assisting the integration of disabled children into regular class rooms.
This year the two concerts with the David Rotundo Band provided enough donations to make some needed repairs and keep the center running for nearly 5 months. UNA would like to thank everyone who came and hope to see you again next January and February!