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Kumán: The World Meets Tatiana

A review of Tatiana's rock opera Kumán
by Godspeede

In the late 1960s and early 1970s it became fashionable among rock musicians to seek "artistic" legitimization through marrying their music to other more heralded forms. This trend enjoyed a brief period of popularity as "art" rock with such soulless but classically based bands as Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer becoming very wealthy epitomizing these pretensions for middle class white kids who misunderstood complexity for profundity and who still wanted to think of themselves as hip. Thankfully this genre rapidly faded because, of course, the power of rock music is that it is not studied but spontaneous and fundamental (primitive); in the words of Keith Richard: "Art is just a guy's name!" One of the more execrable and long lasting expressions of the genre was the "rock opera". Virtually an oxymoron, the concept of a "rock opera" gained popularity with The Who's awful Tommy (a sophomoric story line, three decent songs, and four or five average riffs expanded into an hour), which sold millions and inspired a play and a movie. Other attempts to duplicate Tommy's success like Godspell and the Bee Gees' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (the Beatles had too much class to do this to their own music!) were even worse. One of the last of these rock operas was done in Mexico in 1984. It was entitled Kuman, and though, no doubt, it was not known at the time, for me at least, it justifies the entire form because it introduced Tatiana to the world.

As rock operas go, Kuman is not bad. True, the recording is just barely professional and completely dry, but he band providing the support music is a three-piece heavy metal outfit called Cristal y Acero, who play pretty well, sounding much like an early Rush. The story line, which is not entirely clear from the album, seems to concern a young Tarzan-like figure and his girlfriend, played by Tatiana. About half of the tracks are instrumental support or ensemble pieces. The remainder is given over to solos, duets, and trios by the three soloists, Carmen Delgado, Aaron Montalvo, and Tatiana, who is featured on three songs in these her very first recordings. She was just fifteen and clearly the least experienced of the vocalists. Ms. Delgado sings strongly and with confidence, and Aaron Montalvo generally just sings loudly! But in the end it is Tatiana who steals the show. On Quien Eres Tu, she tackles successfully a very difficult counterpoint trio with the others, on El No Es Animal, she rocks out almost as well as she does later as a pop star, and on Somos Como Una Cancion, she closes the singing part of the play with a slow heartbreaking ballad. She sounds in turn very young, very vulnerable, and very earnest, but it is clearly she. The beauty of her instrument, the voice that has since appealed to millions, is present, and as young and occasionally tentative as she sounds, it is easy to see why Capitol records subsequently signed her to a long-term contract.

The album was recorded on Gas Records or Intergas Records (both names are used), and, not surprisingly, it is very difficult to find. I was only able to locate it by watching Ebay for nearly two years. Thus for all of its primitiveness in recording and production, as Tatiana's rare first recording this is a very valued and treasured artifact. Moreover, as a living document of a young girl reaching for her potential, it is a revelation. One that underscores that she has never been a corporate or marketing creation. Instead, as this LP album proves, Tatiana has always been able to find the magic within herself.

[Listen to RealAudio sample]

© 2001 by Richard A. Morton


This page was first created 05 Jun 2001, and last modified 12 Jul 2002.
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