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Los Caú, "los diablos de la cumbia", grabaron 24 LPs. Photo: Catastrófico
Los Caú, "the devils of cumbia", recorded 24 LPs. Photo: Catastrófico

The Latin KISS who played "metallic cumbia"

Neither rockers nor freaks of heavy metal, the Argentine band Caú played cumbia and tropical music as the spitting image of KISS.

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Gene Simmons opened his big mouth wide in shock. Those guys were identical to them, like looking in a fucking mirror. However, they couldn't have been more opposite than their Argentinean namesakes, Los Caú, musical legends in their own country that for some weird reason dressed and wore makeup like KISS to perform cumbia, tropical rhythms and Guarani folklore. 

When the members of the band saw them jump up and down and sing to the rhythm of "Salten todos,", even the Devil's tongue shrank. "Is this for real?" But in reality, Los Caú were no joke, they had recorded 24 LPs in their storied career.

The meeting between the two groups, so different, took place in 1997. KISS had gone to Argentina to perform their new album, Psycho Circus, and they brought their make-up for the occasion. During a live show on TV, Los Caú - " drunk people " in Guaraní - gave them a signed record and appeared as their tropical casts. The record is exhibited as an odd treasure in the KISS museum today. The host of the Argentine program asked both groups, "So, who was the first one?" and they howled, "Los Caú!"

Obviously, it was not true.

The idea came from manager, Américo Cardinale, a Malcolm McLaren in the Argentine style. Cardinale had made a name for himself as an expert in the phenomenon of "bailantas," which were family dances of tropical and folk music held in Buenos Aires. He thought it was crazy that in the heat of hard rock, a group of chamamé - a popular style from the northeast of Argentina- had a very rocky aesthetic. In fact, when he met Víctor Morel, the soul of Caú in the future, Víctor played rock covers at private parties and hotels with his band.

"He told me that he wanted us to paint our faces like KISS did! I almost died", remembered Morel. That's right, because Cardinale, a smart man, thought that if everyone loved KISS, they would also love this new group that were their tropical twins

On their first LP, recorded in the 1980s, they appear in makeup as KISS but in a rather bizarre landscape. It was a true revolution that made all of Latin America wonder who were those category freaks on their way to being the pioneers of the tropical movement. In 1985, Los Caú managed to surpass themselves with an album cover of them in the middle of a construction site, similar to Judas Priest or Metallica

"We hadn't played at the construction site, nor there, but Kuky [Cardinale's partner] was renovating his house. Come on, we'll eat a roast and take pictures," said Morel.

In fact, the comparison to so well that the MH label described them as "the devils of cumbia" and the inventors of "metallic cumbia." Entire generations remember their time on the most colorful TV shows dressed in studs and leather bracelets, singing their funny songs. 

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