Musica in the park
Los Pinguos bring el ritmo to Reno
“These guys are the South American version of The Beatles,” one fan of Los Pinguos told the Los Angeles Times about six years ago. Since the Latin band graced the front page of that newspaper’s Arts & Entertainment page in 2003, its star has kept rising.
With the five core members of the band hailing from Argentina and part-time touring band members raised everywhere from Montana to Central America, Los Pinguos mixes various elements of Latin music with elements of American pop to create a unique sound.
“The reason of any song is different,” lead singer and guitarist Adrian Buono says via telephone in choppy English. “Some songs are very Latin … some are kinda reggae and rock.”
Aside from the occasional classic rock cover, all the songs of Los Pinguos’ set are performed in Spanish, says Buono, adding that the rhythm and energy of the band’s live show make it worth seeing even if you don’t understand the lyrics.
High energy, up to eight musicians on stage, Latin—sounds a lot like salsa.
“It’s like [comparing] blues and rock,” he says.
Buono continues to define his band’s sound. “We do a lot of harmony with the voices,” he says. “We have five vocals. I’m the main singer … and we all sing together.”
Like a barbershop quartet? Is that common in Argentina?
“I think it’s something—” he pauses. “It’s not something from Argentina [or] very common in Argentina.”
Along with Buono, the core band consists of José Agote, Juan Manzur, Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Enzo Buono. Four of the members play guitar—either Spanish guitars or the Cuban tres, a guitar-like instrument with three pairs of two strings. Topping off the set is a Peruvian cajón box drum. A bass player and a small horn section often tour with the band, as well.
In 2003, two years after coming from Buenos Aires, the feature in the LA Times was far from the peak of their fame. Los Pinguos had just released their second album, Camino Bueno, in 2002 and were getting various magazine features in English-and Spanish-language publications. After a successful show at a party for the cast of ABC sitcom Dharma and Greg and other high profile gigs, the band was invited to compete on the reality show The Next Big Star.
They were the only Spanish-language band on the show. They won.
Buono attributes his band’s popularity with non-Spanish speakers to the band’s rhythm and harmonies. To bring home his point, he talks about when they’ve played in predominately white towns.
“One time we play in Texas in like a very country club,” Buono says with a laugh. “Very, very country. And the people, they loved it. They danced and everything.
“Oh, they loved it,” he says again. “Everywhere we go, they love the music.”
The rest of the band’s discography includes: Magia (2001), Serenata (2003), Live In Los Angeles (2005) a live double CD on Kufala Records, Peripecias (2006) and California (2008).
Los Pinguos, though not currently on tour, will be playing in Reno for Rollin’ on the River on July 10.