“Gasolina” and the Blues


Gelio Acosta "Gasolina"

It’s easier to take him for crazy. To look at his Walt Whitman-style mane, with green leaves sometimes tangled in his white hair; the clothes he wears, as old as he is; the beard, which might remind some people of a confirmed Marxist, and his carefree gait through the streets of Caracas, with his four string guitar on his shoulder, inseparable; one might say, “Look, one more lunatic.”

I also allowed myself that first impression, especially because when I saw Gelio Acosta in a concert at Plaza Venezuela, he looked melancholically at the stage where he hadn’t been invited (in the other “category” were the singer-songwriters: Isabel Parra, Vicente Feliu, Daniel Viglietti). It reached the point that he couldn’t take any more and he asked to go up on stage to also sing to the youth who had gathered there that night.

Of course the demand on him was caught between trova chords and the applause from fans of the “protest song” genre. “Gasolina,” which is what he really prefers to be called, loves to protest and express himself, and he does it in a unique fashion. So why couldn’t he be with the other musicians?

This was something I didn’t know, so I only took a photo of him thinking he was a sad old man with his instrument under his arm and hanging from his shoulder, like someone carrying a woman who they’re trying to abduct.

Later I began to see him in several places, inseparable from his small guitar, as always. This went on until one lucky afternoon in a small jam session I heard him as he approached the microphone with his instrument, his grand heart and that voice that only I’d only heard before from those fortunate blues and jazz singers of the ‘30s and ‘50s.

Perhaps that is one of the best memories that I’ll take with me from this Venezuela: the songs of Gasolina in the rhythm of blues, music that didn’t try to entice me with repetitive or easy-to-follow melodies, but simply pure expression from emotions, from memories, without the habitual humiliation of words, those emerged by themselves and at their own risk, taking form once they exploded in the emptiness until dissolving in our ears.

The music was there, just waiting to be freed by his hands. That’s what it’s like to listen to Gasolina, the rest would be to not do him justice.

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