[Originally published in DTM Magazine Issue #30; July/August 2006].
Tego’s 2002 debut, El Abayarde, has sold an estimated 210,000 to date, and El Enemy de Los Guasibiri – last year’s greatest-hits collection – sold at least 102,000 and left fans hungry for his forthcoming third joint, The Underdog.
For Tego Calderón, the most important part of his name and career is his being an original figure. “It makes me happy to be who I am and know that I don’t have to put on a fake persona. I am the same everywhere I go,” he says with pride. It’s precisely his sincerity and unique style, when he tells what he is thinking that stands out about his personality.
Tego states that his new production The Underdog/El Renegado, is a reflection of how he feels. He explains that the disc, which will be released within the next few months, will bring his fans something different. “I have included themes that have not been touched before as I tried to fill a void within the genre. I am very happy because it’s a good production unlike anything that’s currently in the market,” he added. He says that one of the most appealing aspects of the album is that it includes salsa. He proudly explained that the Afro-Antillean culture is present in the album and that the production includes collaboration with musical greats. That salsa was included in this album should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed his career.
Tego confesses to DTM that he is not a fan of reggaeton, but he is a faithful follower of salsa. He recalls a few years back how his entrance into the genre was not something he expected. “I’m not a fan of reggaeton. I was accepted with the song Cosa Buena,” he says in between smiles. Tego explains that during that time his goal was to breakaway, with the false belief that hip-hop artists, like himself, could not sing reggaeton. “For many that wasn’t allowed. Later they also said that those who sung reggaeton were sell outs. I decided to ‘throw in’ something witty about that. That’s how it all started. Of course, if there is someone I have to mention, of whom I am a disciple and I admire it’s Vico-C.”
Tego has created his empire without a rush. Without caring about how difficult it is, this is the terrain that he seems to enjoy, free from the stress of envy that his style has created. “I don’t complicate myself. Many things entertain me, the majority of which are very simple. I like to go out with my family; I enjoy looking out at the sea, the fishes. I’m fascinated by anything having to do with the sea. My house overlooks reefs and for me being in my house is what entertains me the most,” he said.
Reggaeton is a music that has broken boundaries, without caring about language or culture. Everyday new representatives of the rhythm pop on the scene and for Tego this is a good sign, because he feels the genre needs to receive a fresh dose of creativity. He says that he was in Venezuela, among many other places, and that the movement there can be compared to an epidemic. He believes that the reggaeton movement benefits from these new artists, but only if the roots of reggaeton aren’t forgotten. “If they come to preserve the genre and they do what they have to do that’s great! They are definitely welcomed. At this moment, however, many similar products are being released from Puerto Rico, without much originality,” he said.
Tego is a relaxed conversationalist and he doesn’t seem to complicate himself with existential problems. He considers himself a strong man and who feels that the best way to channel sadness or anger is by further strengthening oneself. He says that his songs come out of a thousand and one motive that crosses his mind as he is about to write. “Everything inspires me. A good beat is a lot of times my inspiration. I listen and think: ‘this is a challenge, this is difficult, and this motivates me.’ On an occasion when something sad happens to me or I’m upset, I’ll channel it through music. But if I’m sad, that doesn’t necessarily mean that something sad will come out of it. The way in which I deal with sadness is with strength and feelings, but not by crying. I overcome difficult times with strength, I leave crying for motherhood!” he says.
The release of The Underdog does not intimidate Tego. He knows what he is capable of, and, although he sees his career at a crucial point, he considers himself prepared. He explains that it’s a challenge because he feels he has to prove that he can repeat what he did three years ago with the production of El Abayarde. “I don’t’ see challenges, all this for me is part of a crusade that I myself chose.” In the same way, he confesses that he has dreams. “Recording with Juan Luis Guerra and Ruben Blades is without a doubt one of my dreams. It would be an honor. They are two great artists which I have much respect for and an example for any artist to follow.”
In addition to his musical work Tego Calderón is submerged in a project named Bling: A Planet of Rock. The project, which was created by the Dominican-American reporter Raquel Cepeda, plans to unite hip-hop and reggaeton artists in Africa, among them Kanye West and Jadakiss. This project seeks to connect the artists with the people of Africa’s Sierra Leon and the daily drama they live through. It is a documentary about tragedy, stemming from the civil war that arose out of the market for diamonds. The hip-hop and reggaeton stars are the protagonists because they are among the primary consumers of the stone. “Given the fascination for diamonds, the objective is finding out the reality that these people live only so that we can show off these diamonds. People without arms and families destroyed are only a few of the horrendous situations that they suffer. I think that the idea is that we change our way of thinking in respect to diamonds and that we continue spreading the message. I am open to it and I think that the objective can work for me,” he concludes.