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Interview with Wim Fortsman of Bubu (06/08/02)

Hegede: Wim, please tell us what you've been up to since Bubu?
Fortsman: In 1996, I moved from Buenos Aires to Miami, a kind of blind date, trying to continue my career as a sessionist/midi man/arranger. I'm still trying to make it. Meanwhile I played, and am still playing, covers and new arrangements of jazz standards, bossa nova etc. in the restaurant/hotel circuit (I have to pay my bills!!). I have focused this last year on songs by Weather Report, Pink Floyd, Jeff Lorber, Herbie Hancock, Steps Ahead, Chick Corea, Bob Berg, Spyro Gira, etc. etc. I can tell you that by far the best work I have done here was on a request by an agent to put together a band to play a private concert at an American Airlines party at the Biltmore Hotel playing music from Miles Davis in the Coltrane era .

In 1990, we recorded one of the three pieces in a little studio that belonged at the time to Sergio Blostein, a former guitar player, arranger and producer of the group. The name of the piece is "Carnavalito." From 1994 through 1996, Andreoli and I worked up a fully new arrangement of another of these pieces: "Cloud Train." We recorded it at my home studio. All instruments were Midi; only the bass and the saxes were played live. With Cloud Train and another two compositions -- "City" by Andreoli and "Florian's Song" by me (both of which were composed by request for two different short films ) we edited a demo called "Film," without further repercussions.

In 1986, Andreoli and I wrote a complete work with instrumental music, songs and images about the Malvinas/Falkland War. We put a new band together (only Sergio Polizzi stayed with us). Neither the producers nor the record company with which we had a record contract at this time (Emi Odeon) showed any interest in it.

Hegede:What is the history of Bubu before Anabelas?
Fortsman:Circa 1970, I was walking over an abandoned railroad track that ran along the shores of the Rio de la Plata (the Plate River, the widest river in the world). It was late on a clear, hot summer night and I was enjoying it with a friend. We saw three people coming in the opposite direction. One of them was a guitar player I had met before and he introduced me to the others: a bass player named Andreoli and a drummer. Maybe about a year later, they showed up at my apartment telling me the story of a spirit that had called them to say that I was the man to complete the team. I agreed to go to their rehearsals in a typical old house. When I went there, I found the embryo of "El cortejo de un dŪa amarillo" and other compositions by the group that had the name of the Spirit I mentioned before ..."Sion." When we were on the train returning from this first rehearsal, I told Sergio Blostein, the guitar player, "Okay, I like the music, but we need to change some of the band's pieces." He answered: "Don't even say a word; they are very close to each other!" I tried for a while, but when I realized I couldn't clarify the music without changing some of the musicians, I quit. A year later, I was playing in a band: drums, bass, electric guitar, percussion, keyboards (the first moogs were arriving) a singer, two tenors, and a trumpet. It was a big success in the "youth night club" circuit! We played songs by Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Tower of Power. We copied the arrangements by ear, or made our own (I remember especially a 15-minute version of "Eleanor Rigby" with passages in which each member played exclusively percussion or got into a choral form). Every night I had to play two or three solos, and that's what I wanted to do with my life! But still that was not enough, so one day I called Blostein and Andreoli and made an appointment in a bar and proposed a new band. We agreed that Andreoli would play bass and compose. Blostein would arrange and play the guitar, and I would play the sax and make the band sound. A short time later, Andreoli brought a new bass player: Fleck Folino. And he brought a guitar player who started playing instead of Blostein: Eduardo Rogatti. We worked a lot rehearsing; we tried some 20 drummers until we got Polo Corbelas, the only one who showed that he had the wave and the skills to play such complex rhythms. Then I brought a former singer, my friend Miguel Zabaleta, who sang the few songs Andreoli and I wrote trying to give to the work some possibilities in the market. Miguel brought us Cecilia Tenconi (a monster of a flutist!) and she brought us Sergio Polizzi (a monster violinist!) We used to rehearse every day four or five hours. Daniel continued composing, trying lines he wrote for every one, and we made free improvisations at every rehearsal, as well as experiments and changes in form. That went on and on, say, two years before the debut (should I say three? I 'm not sure.). So, we cooked it with big lines.

Hegede:Many prog collectors have wondered why Andreoli was listed only as a composer. You mentioned that he also played bass.
Fortsman:Now you know he sometimes played bass, such as during the group's last concert, around 1978 in Luna Park, a little stadium in downtown Buenos Aires, with 5,000 spectators.

Hegede: The music on Anabelas is quite original. What bands/composers inspired you to write ambitious music like this?
Fortsman: I can't speak for everybody on that matter. Tenconi used to play at the time with the best contemporary classical players in Argentina. Polizzi was a violinist at the National Symphony, and until recent years toured worldwide with the Alicia Terzian Group, which focused on contemporary classic music. I don't know Corbella influences. I remember we taught Rogatti, who at the time moved from a little town in another state to Buenos Aires, how to play and to imitate the Fripp style because almost every of us loves Fripp. Blostein loves Frank Zappa, and so do I. Zabaleta used to love the first Genesis, and at that time he could sing exactly like Jon Anderson Folino likes English rock music. Regarding Andreoli, we shared so many years of our lives that is difficult to separate our influences. I went, hazardously, directly from the Beatles to jazz and, very fast, to John Coltrane and all the "NEW WAVE" or free jazz or instant composition and then to the pro and contemporary classical music (I really enjoyed Olivier Messiaen, Penderetsky, Boulez, Luciano Berio, Xenakis) and then I went to Mahler, Wagner, Cesar, Franck and more Mozart, Beethoven, and the Father in the sky ......... Bach. Really it's impossible for me to mention even 1% of the music I love (Indian music, Japanese music, Bulgarian folk, and that of the Pigmies (the tribe of little men in Africa). And let me tell you: I'm not a big music listener. I spend so many hours doing music that I have no time to hear music.

Hegede:How was Anabelas received after its release? Did Bubu play live?
Fortsman:While doing the Bubu/Anabelas thing, and before (and after!), and now, I have worked a lot in South America, touring as a sideman for many of the best known pop singers there. So, I was not 100% naÔve. I got my nose into the music business and I learned some tricks as to how to enter the music market. Any way, we didn't get any money, we toured, we recorded, and we broke up, without getting material benefits. But to get our material placed on the market was a satisfaction because it allowed a lot of people that otherwise never could have dreamed that such music existed to be in front of a stage were REAL music was happening. And all this could happen because Bubu live was really great. The CD doesn't show more than 25% of what the band gets from its music in the live shows.

Hegede:Do you know of any live Bubu recordings from that era? Did you guys record material for a 2nd LP?
Fortsman: Iíve never heard of a live Bubu record. We recorded two demos in different studios that sound better than the CD, but they are lost. As I said in the interview in 1990, we recorded a piece (Carnavalito). I'm listening to it, and it is almost like chamber music. It runs around 20 minutes, and is played by Sergio Polizzi (violin), Gustavo Dinnerstein (flute), Wim Forstmann (tenor sax), and Sergio Blostein (electric guitar, bass, percussion). Also we have the three pieces Andreoli and I recorded in 1996. As well, we have two versions of a Tango (but they are not good and need work). In addition, we have some Andreoli-Forstmann duos. Now that I know that people worldwide like our music, I'll be ready shortly to give them a second release by Bubu. Thatís not all; a third one is possible. And I have more material: Four duos for piano and alto sax. These are really good in composition, execution and expression, and are ready to go through the mastering/editing process.

Hegede:Thank you for your time. Bubu is one of the best prog bands of all time, so it was a pleasure to talk with you.
Fortsman: I hope my answers explain something of the Bubu phenomenon, although I doubt it because the mind of man, with all its infinite complexity, never approaches what we can perceive with our heart.

Thank you!