BOHP_2008-02-08 - Oscar Stagnaro - 1
FB: Well good afternoon once again, today we have a unique experience in inviting to the Berklee Oral History Project Mr. Oscar Stagnaro, who is a gentlemen from Lima, Peru, who's been on the Berklee faculty teacher electric bass and Latin rhythms for twenty years. Oscar. OS: Hey Fred, thanks so much for inviting me, it's a real pleasure. I hope I can be of any help in this program. FB: You're career has been a really fascinating one and a really encompassing one doing a lot of world traveling with Pequito de Rivera and you're abilities on electric bass encompass a very very wide range of Latin styles and rhythms. Perhaps you could get us started by telling us about growing up in Lima, Peru. OS: Uh, well we started with my brother Ramon, in back probably, well like I mentioned before like plain surf music. Which probably for many people, they are not familiar with that term anymore. But it was the music from the band called the Ventures, and we used to do you know, "Walk Don't Run" "Wipe Out," all these tunes from that era. We still have three note runs that, that was the interesting part, only acoustic guitar because we couldn't afford to buy electric guitar. Believe it or not, I'm talking late 60's early 70's. FB: Would you provide the percussion with your hands on the body? OS: Not really, I just played the bass part you know. Which is (sings) pretty easy, but you start learning forms, you start learning tempos and stuff and start learning how to tune the guitar. Simple stuff. My brother is a very accomplished guitar player so he showed me to play the bass. And we started with that and we played in political parties. I used to have a friend that belongs to the party that is now running the country, my country Peru, it's called the APRAOSA, so it's like the democratic or the republican party, so it's one of the few parties that is still alive in Peru. And we used to play there once a week. At that time I didn't know any politics so we just have fun playing there. FB: Tell us how you got The Venture's music together. OS: Excuses me, what? FB: How you got The Venture's music. OS: Oh the music. The way, because at that time, probably the cassette was not invited, I'm not sure but at least we didn't have. So the way that we learned it was we turned on the radio and they look at the dial for the tune that we wanted to learn, especially my brother, and then the tune started so then we play four, five, or six bars and the tune was over, so we had to switch to another station that the same tune was played, or wait and then and then cap, and slowly the whole tune, we put it together. And that's how we learned the tunes. FB: What was available on Peruvian radio? American rock? And what else was there? Mexican music? OS: Oh yes, of course. And eventually, we were very lucky in that time because we had classical stations, we had Peruvian music, we had Cuban music. Like the mornings I remember my dad used to turn on the radio like Sonora Matseria or Celia Cruz from six to eight. They played everyday that stuff. Then an hour later they played all Peruvian music and then Top 40's from then on. So you could really look whatever you wanted to have there. Now I don't think the people there is that lucky that I used to be able to listen to all types of music. FB: You were lucky that your father turned the radio on. OS: Yes. FB: Both of us got some kind of music from our dads. My dad gave me a clarinet and a Benny Goodman record when I was ten. OS: You see. So he was the radio. And they know, that he was a person who was always in a good humor so, for us it was very helpful you know. FB: So you associate good humor and a smiling manner with music. It's a logical connection. OS: Yeah you know, we grew up with my dad since I was three and two so we have to put a smiley face to life since the beginning you know. FB: I see. And so you and your brother had a team you had a band? OS: Yes, so we, my brother had a guitar probably when he was twelve. You know like a small guitar. And then the one I got was when I was fifteen, fourteen. Because you know, I didn't want to get involved with music at first, I didn't think it was the right thing. Music in that time in Peru, or musicians in a way, were not looked at in a professional way because most of them, you know they didn't look good, they didn't know how to dress, they drink a lot, and all the extras. So being a musician was not a profession. FB: So it was like Andean Flute players drinking too much Pisco or what? OS: A lot. Not too much, a lot. And not only Andean, because in Peru, the music that you probably know the most is Andean music, but that's not the stuff that we play on the coast. You know I am from Lima which is on the coast, the Pacific coast. And we hardly play that. That music is from people from the Andes. So the people that did like the musica crieola or black music, that become to be known, that's what we used to play in Peru. And most of the musicians are you know, street musicians, so they live like street people: a lot of partying, a lot of things a lot of that. They are always in a good mood, but life is like circles in a way. Now it has improved a lot, but in that time musicians were not looked at as nice people, if I could say the least. But that's why my dad didn't want us to be musicians, so he fought it for a long time and then he gave up. You know because my brother and me became musicians and later on we bring him to the parties, so then he had fun. So we were all three together going to the Christmas parties or New Years playing in different bands and he was always there.