BLACK:GUAYABA ROCKS! Meet Puerto Rico’s Hottest Band

by Melissa Zayas

Bronx Journal Staff Writer

Originally published December 2006

On a warm and balmy Thursday night in October, more than 200 college students gathered at Moorings, a hot bar and grill in the chic El Condado area of San Juan. They had arrived here to enjoy the terrific ocean view, to dance to the “techno” music, to drink, to talk and flirt, but mostly to wait for the hot local band, Black: Guayaba, to arrive on the Heineken LIVE Tour.

People were jamming the room and standing, elbow to elbow, with anticipation. They could barely walk from one end to the other without bumping into each other and spilling their drinks.

When Black: Guayaba finally arrived at 11:30 p.m., the guys, wearing black shirts and jeans, were escorted to the restaurant’s VIP Room to warm up before performing. The VIP Room was large, with sofas, televisions and tables.  Only a few select friends of the band members are allowed in here before or  even during a show, and on this particular evening the room was the only calm place in the bar.

One of the most popular rock bands in Puerto Rico today, Black: Guayaba,  consists of five members: Gustavo González, the vocalist, Javier Morales and Carlos Ortíz on guitar, Carlos Colón at the piano, and Gabriel Calero on drums.  These men, all between the ages of 23 and 25, are sexy, but, for a rock band, they manage to be wholesome as well.  Only González has long hair, and during his shows he wears a cap.

The group has been playing together since eighth grade, and all, except for Calero, met at Colegio San José, an all-boys’ private school in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. (Calero studied at San Antonio, also a private school in nearby San José.)  For years, as young unseasoned musicians, they  played the pubs of Puerto Rico. This was the way that they first honed their musical ability, demonstrated their musical potential, and gradually won a local reputation.

Since then, the band has been slowly evolving.  Today Black:Guayaba plays Spanish rock music with a mix of rhythms. Some of their songs are slow rock, but others are more hard rock, like Mána or Guns N’ Roses. The group’s songs seem heartfelt and often speak of love or a broken heart. One lyric says: “Estás muy lejos, quiero llegar a tu estrella, aunque por ti muera estás muy lejos de amor,” or, in English, “You are too far away. I want to get to your star, although if I die, you are too far away for love.”  Guayaba’s two most popular numbers are “Lejos,” or “Far Away,” and “Despacio” or “Slowly.”

Black: Guayaba’s first and only CD so far is “Lo demás es plástico,” or, in English, “The Rest Is Plastic.”  The title refers to the band’s vision of what music means. They have also appeared in one video so far — for “Lejos,” or “Away.”

The members of Black:Guayaba write their own songs. González and Colón wrote most of the 12 numbers for this CD.  These reflected their life events as individuals and as a band, and they also embrace love and lack of affection. In discussing their musical influences, González has cited Aerosmith; Morales, Joe Perry; Colón, Juan Luís Guerra, a Dominican musician. Both Ortíz and Calero say they have been inspired by Maná, the famous Mexican rock band.

This year, because of the group’s growing popularity, Black:Guayaba was chosen to be the face of the campaign, “Dame una prueba de amor, hazte la prueba del VIH,” which translates as “Give me a love sign, HIV test.” The slogan is meant to suggest that partners can care for themselves, for each other, and their relationship by taking HIV tests and making sure that they are healthy.    Black:Guayaba held a show at the Hard Rock Café in Old San Juan on June 27, International Day for HIV tests. Outside the restaurant, a medical team in a bus tested people for the virus. “It was an enriching experience,” said Ortíz, “because people see us now and thank us for helping them relieve their doubt about their AIDS status.”

The group is particularly interested in this cause because as teenagers they received the proper orientation about HIV and AIDS from guitarist Morales’s father, a physician.  One of Black:Guayaba’s purposes, they say, is to help other young adults.

Right now the band members are working on songs for their next CD. So far they have refused to discuss what it is about, but they say that they concentrating on the lyrics and the sound.

“My work is to hang out with my friends. We have a great time,” said Colón.  The guys say that “jangueo,” a kind of Puerto Rican jargon used by young adults when they are with friends, is part of their work when they are playing pubs, restaurants or concerts.

Sometimes, however, they like to be more relaxed and just go out and drink. All except González, that is. He has been singing since age 9 and says that since his voice is one of the gifts God gave him, he feels obligated to take care of it.  And so, he explained, he never touches alcohol. “And I don’t like cold drinks,” he said. “I always drink warm water or Coke.”

All the guys agree that in the 13 years that they have been together, the Guayaba have become like brothers.  None are married yet, although González, Morales and Colón have girl friends.   “These are my brothers. We always hang out as a family.  There is no better work,” said González.

As for their growing success, including their recent appearance at the Latin Grammys, the boys in the band refuse to let it go to their heads. “Thank God, we are the same people we have always been,” said Colón.  “And we have grown a lot musically as well.”

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