Apr 21
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Robi Draco Rosa After Menudo

Author: The Philippine Star

Once upon a time when the likes of Lea Salonga and Kris Aquino were 14 or so years younger, there was a pre-teen quintet called – si, si señoritos y señoritas! – Menudo. You know, menudo like the minced meat ever present on every Filipino dining table. They were such cute and cuddlesome niños bonitos, straight out of Puerto Rico, and how boys and girls (si, si, Lea and Kris included) went gaga over them, swooning over their – bubble-gum? – songs such as the unforgettable If You’re Not Here By My Side.

The voice behind that song was Robbie Rosa who had "reinvented" himself as he embarked on his own solo career and now goes by the name Robi Draco Rosa. Besides Ricky Martin, the three other original Menudos – Charlie Masso, Ray Acevedo and Ricky Melendez – have slipped out of the limelight.

So while Ricky Martin was livin’ la vida loca, what was Robi Draco Rosa up to?

He never really bade showbiz goodbye; he opted to stay in the background, writing hits for Ricky Martin, including Livin’ La Vida Loca, The Cup of Life, She Bangs and She’s All I Ever Had.

Actually, Robi has had four solo albums to his name but music-lovers on this side of the world haven’t really heard about them, have they? But Robi’s latest album, Mad Love (released locally by Sony Music) will surely make people sit up, all ears, and take note. For sure, the fans will be comparing Robi to Ricky but that’s beside the point.

There’s a little story behind the making of Mad Love, related by Robi on the literature in the CD package.

When singer/guitarist Robi Draco Rosa needed to think about his new album, he knew it would be best done blazing down the Pacific Coast Highway in a new ride with serious tunes popping from his speakers. "I’ve always had vintage cars," reflects Rosa. "So I leased a brand new 740 10, and I took it out on the road and started playing the remastered version of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew . That’s when I knew what I had to do, what it would sound like. "

The result is Mad Love, 14 songs (including Como Me Acuerdo/How I Remember, one of the Spanish tunes on the album, which he co-wrote with producer/songwriter George Noriega) that reflect the chaos, the darkness, the love that came out of that moment when jazz became rock became a revolution in sound. It’s also a testament to the love of his life, actress/director Angela Alvarado. "I’ve always been kind of romantic, but I reached another level in our relationship and it was just when I was diving into this album. So I just committed to that and I said let me just go full on and make beautiful love songs. "

At the album launch in London last March, Robi told the international press that Mad Love was two years in the making.

"At first," he said before a showcase of five songs from the album, "I was working with a touring band I had put together. We had tons of material, about 60-plus songs. But after recording all these songs, I realized that I didn’t think I had an album I felt was worth putting out. So I went to Puerto Rico and I realized that I had to go in a new direction. "

He went back to Los Angeles, leased the brand-new 740 10 and he was on his way to completing Mad Love.

How is Robi now? He has grown muscles here and there, projecting a macho image in keeping with his "reinvented self. " He swang his pelvis a bit during the showcase but not in the wild way Ricky did. And his music? Well, you have to listen to Mad Love and find out for yourself. One thing I can say is that Robi Draco Rosa of Mad Love is a far cry from Robbie Rosa of Menudo who sang with so much adolescent pain in If You’re Not Here By My Side.

A day after the showcase, Conversations sat down with Robi for some reminiscence of his Menudo days, what he has been up to during his brief respite from the limelight and what he’s looking forward to.

You’ve been to the Philippines several times with the Menudo. ..

". .. most definitely!"

How many times have you been to the Philippines?

"Maybe. .. twice. "

What do you remember from those visits?

"My memory fails me, so I don’t remember anything much from those visits. But I remember going to the Philippines alone to do a show, several years after I left the group. The concert was fabulous, I remember. "

Would you know whatever happened to the other Menudos?

"No, I don’t. You know, I’m raising two sons of my own, one is 12 and the other is 3. I’m busy raising a family, so I don’t keep in touch with the rest of the boys. I worked with Ricky and a lot of good songs came out of that partnership – you know, Livin’ La Vida Loca and Maria. When it comes to Raymond Acevedo, we stay in touch at least once a year. Raymond is a creative force; he’s doing fantastic, you know. The rest of the fellows. .. all I know is that one of them is a doctor and another is an architect. So on and so forth. "

Oh, not active in showbiz anymore.

"They still do shows every now and then. Ricky Melendez is an entertainment lawyer. "

Could you tell us more about your wife?

"You know in the movie Salsa. .. I met my wife there. We have an amazing relationship. We’ve been going on for many years now – going on 16 years, actually. With two wonderful kids. Ours is one of those amazing love stories. "

Is any of your kids going in the direction you’ve taken?

"I wanna help them pursue their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. I just know that my sons are warriors. .. They’re soldiers right now. They’re turning into warriors. "

Warriors?

"What I mean is that whatever they decide to do, I will support them; I will be behind them. "

How has life been after Menudo?

(Heaving a sigh) "Life has been. .. fantastic! I’ve been travelling a lot. I fell in love several times. I got into a lot of troubles. "

Troubles? Such as what kind of troubles?

"Good troubles. Fun troubles. "

Oh, I see!

"I was just having a good time, living like vagabond. No worry at all. Just travelling. Not working at all. Just enjoying life. Cooking and eating. Going to the theater. Listening to music. Enjoying life! Spent all my money. And then trying to pull myself together. "

Why did you add Draco to your name?

"Well. .. Actually, my real name, the name that will be engraved on my tomb when I pass away, will be Draco Cornelius Rosa. Robi is only a showbiz name. My parents went to the United States at a time when they wanted to give the impression that no one should speak Spanish. Your name should either be John or Tom. You know, that kind of thing. When I read into that reality, I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with it. And so, I’m Draco Cornelius Rosa. "

Speaking about your album. .. Why did you call it Mad Love?

"Mad Love? For reasons that you and I, I’m sure, are familiar with. We’ve been in love before, we’ve been broken hearted before, and at the same time liberated. This is what Mad Love is. It’s about the ups and downs of being in love. When you love someone it’s chaotic and at the same time it can be the most soothing experience ever. "

How different is your music now from your music 16 or so years ago?

"Well, you know, you have to understand that back in those days I didn’t even know I could write songs. I never wrote a song. So I started putting out records in 1990. So we have to go years back to find out how different my music has become. From 1990 to this point, I think, you know, we have always embraced the idea of making music, just making music, without addressing any particular genre. I really love music and I love people and I love exotic instruments. I wanna play any kind of instrument anyone can bring me. That’s pretty much how the evolution of my music has been. I just embrace the eclectic side of music more. "

How do you think your kind of music is similar to or different from that of Ricky Martin?

"Well, you know, I wrote a lot of those (Ricky’s) songs. So I don’t necessarily ever sit down and compare my music with that of anyone out there. As a matter of fact, when we talk about competition of sorts. .. "

.. .Sorry to interrupt you, but is there any competition (between you and Ricky in particular)?

"The only person I see in the morning when I wake up is me. The only man I see standing in front of me. And that’s the man I have to address everyday. "

Did you have to reinvent yourself to fit into your kind of music now? You look, well, very different.

"Not at all. You like it?"

Oh, yes, I do. It’s kind of sexy.

"Sexy? Thank you very much! You know, we tend to get dressed everyday. It’s our goal to not, you know, disrespect people by walking around naked. Aside from that, you know, thank you!"

There’s a news report that the Menudo is being revived, that they’re auditioning new members. Do you think the Menudo is still relevant to the current music scene?

"I don’t know. I’m the wrong person to ask that question to. "

What was the best lesson that you learned from your years with the Menudo?

"Best lesson? To defend music till my death. And remember, that is the most important thing. "

And what was the Menudo song that you love most?

"I don’t know because, you know, at the moment I don’t want to talk about any other song. At the moment, as far as I’m concerned, there’s only Mad Love. "

Aren’t you going back to the Philippines one of these days to promote Mad Love?

"I’m just waiting for an invitation. "

You’re welcome anytime.

"I need a formal one. "

Do you want to say anything to your fans back in the Philippines?

"You know, I basically want to say hello to everyone in the Philippines. I know I’ve come across a lot of you in the past. It’s lovely to be on the tube again, saying hello to all of you. I hope you have a chance to listen to Mad Love. It’s a nice album, a love album.

Much love to all of you. Salamat po!"

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar. net. ph)

Source: The Philippine Star