I have been reading a bit recently about the nadaísmo movement which flourished in the Colombian city of Medellín in the early 1960s. Nadaísmo was a counter-culture movement which, with author Gonzalo Arango at its helm, sought to attack Colombia’s traditional institutions through a mix of humour and irreverence. It has been considered as a reaction to the wave of political violence which had swept the country in the 1940s and 50s and as a protest against the government’s failings and the catholic church’s power. Nadaísmo was advocated not only authors but also by poets, film-makers and visual artists whose broad aim was to create work “against any reason, a revolutionary poetry, even against the reason of beauty…” which “didn’t leave any faith intact or any idol in place“.
Though the movement was short lived (until about the mid 60s), its legacy lasted much longer. In the mid sixties a group of musicians from Medellín somehow combined the ideas of Nadaísmo with go-go/garage/surf music and went on to become one of the first commercially successful rock bands outside of Bogotá. Los Yetis’ self-titled LP, released in 1966 by the Colombian institution that is Discos Fuentes, transformed the band into teen idols on a Beatles scale.
Though they were clearly commercial in their output (recording Spanish language versions of classic tracks like The Beatles’ ‘Help!’ and The Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’) and they formed part of the Latin American rock music boom known as the Nueva Ola, Los Yetis were proudly linked to the philosophical antecedents of the Medellín Nadaísmo counter-culture and were overtly political. A sometimes contradictory and intriguing marriage whose results are great tunes like this one:
“Corramos todos, corramos ya. Llegó el desorden, ya llegó. Como corremos, corramos ya. Todo se cae, cayendo está.
Everybody run, run! Disorder is here, it has come. How we run, run! Everything falls, it’s falling down.’
Llegó el peligro, ya llegó. Ya moriré, moriré. No habrá dolor, todo hablar. Contigo iré, contigo sí. Sin esperar, sin esperar.”
Danger is here, it has come. I’ll die soon, I will die. It won’t hurt, speak of everything. I’ll go with you, yes with you. Without waiting, without waiting.”
(I transcribed and translated these lyrics myself so if anyone has a correction please leave it in the comments section, thanks!)
The brilliant Spanish imprint Munster (associated with the equally brilliant revivalist label Vampisoul) has released a lengthy compilation of the band’s back catalogue accompanied by the usual in-depth sleeve notes and special photos from the period. A fascinating insight into Los Yetis and the uneasy relationship between pop, politics and the 1960s Colombian counter-culture.