Most would describe Robi Draco Rosa’s music and image with adjectives such as “enigmatic,” “elusive,” “dark,” even “funereal,” evoking an almost gothic figure musically prowling the night. However, seen in the context of his life, the icon that is Robi Rosa skirts around these and, in fact, all caricatural labels and mental images.
Born June 27, 1973 in Long Island, NY, Rosa was raised surrounded by an eclectic mélange of musical tastes: from his mother’s affinity to the rock of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Who and the funk-ridden R&B of the seventies, to his father’s propensity toward salsa—not just any salsa, but, as Rosa put it, “the dark, aggressive kind.” At a young age, his family moved him to Puerto Rico, where he became a member of the increasingly popular band Menudo. With Rosa as the lead vocalist, Menudo achieved the peak of its worldwide success.
Nevertheless, Rosa grew disenchanted with the band, particularly since he was not allowed to write any songs for them, so he decided to leave the group in 1987. Ultimately, he resided in Baha Beach, Rio de Janeiro, where he spent time with local artists that would contribute to the musical education of his life.
Two Portuguese-language solo albums later, he moved to New York, where he formed a group by the name of “Maggie’s Dream.” The group’s energy and stridency earned it a spot on tours with Fishbone, the Black Crowes, and Faith No More. But the success of this musical experiment did not suffice; wanting to extend the reach of his talents into other media, Rosa moved to Los Angeles. There, he swiftly landed the lead in the feature film Salsa: the Motion Picture, on the set of which he met his future wife, actress Angela Alvarado.
He also appeared alongside Christopher Mitchum in a German film entitled Gummibarchen kussit man nicht. Rosa wrote, produced and performed two songs—“Angela” and “Little Woman”—for the soundtrack of this film, which was released by RCA Records under his publishing company then, Seiba Tree Music.
attempts at acting did not prove fulfilling, however, so he went back
to Los Angeles to focus on his painting and return full-throttle to his
music, with the penname “Draco Cornelius” celebrating his
poetic rebirth. His new identity thus spawned Draco Cornelius Music, the
publishing company he developed for his next musical undertakings, which
joined ventures with Ocean Productions, Angela Alvarado’s production
company devoted mainly to film and photography.
These accomplishments not only began a series of concrete personal victories for Rosa, but also served as preparation for the best to come: eventually, he signed a solo contract with Sony Latin in 1993, which enabled him to record in Spain the first of his highly celebrated Spanish-language solo albums, Frío.
In between solo projects, Draco worked on Ricky Martin’s A Medio Vivir. He co-wrote and co-produced the majority of the songs on the album, including the hit single, “María,” conquering a space on the Top 10 Billboard album charts. At the same time, he formed a band with ex-Circle Jerk Sander Schloss called “Sweet and Low,” with which he played a few gigs around town.
In spite of both Frío’s and A Medio Vivir’s positive critical and public
|acclaim, Draco did not attain his now eminent position as an exceptional composing talent until the 1996 release of his second album, Vagabundo. Recorded in England and produced by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, Vagabundo has been hailed as a “tour de force of introspective haunting tunes.” Awards and titles regarding the album did not lack either: the video for the song “Madre Tierra,” produced and directed by Ocean Productions, won Best Rock Video in the 1997 Latin Music Awards; Vagabundo was included in Spin Magazine’s 1997 Top 10 list of “greatest rock en español records of all time”; Entertainment Weekly named Rosa to their IT LIST of the 100 most creative people in the entertainment industry; and Banco Popular included him in its exhibit “Acángana: 100 años de la música puertorriqueña,” (“Acángana: 100 years of Puerto Rican Music”) which opened in the summer of 2000.||
Such accolades for the album encouraged Rosa’s record label to finally release his English-language version of Frío, entitled Songbirds and Roosters, in 1998—five years after it had been recorded with an extremely low budget and in a span of two weeks. While these five-year-old tracks were played continuously on the radio, he toured with his songs from Vagabundo, and wrote and recorded Ricky Martin’s chart-topping album Vuelve under the pseudonym Ian Blake, which netted five hit singles including “La copa de la vida” (a.k.a. “The Cup of Life”).
While all these projects arose and flourished, Draco formed A Phantom Vox, Corporation, a multi-media production company that joined Dräco Cornelius Music with other writers under Phantom Vox Publishing, the company’s subdivision for licensing of original compositions. Phantom Vox Publishing signed with Warner/Chappell Music (BMI), the prestigious
representatives of songwriters such as Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, and subsequently released a string of history-making hits.
For its part, Phantom Vox Studios, Rosa’s own multi-media recording studio and another subdivision of the company, worked as Music Supervisor for Livin’ the Life, an independent movie that won the Best Film Award in the 1999 New York Latin Film Fest. Furthermore, the studio filmed and edited the video for “Commitment #4,” a track Draco composed and recorded in dedication to the freedom of the island of Vieques, a municipality of Puerto Rico.
Though hard to believe, Rosa had not yet reached the peak of his success. Between 1998 and 1999, he wrote and recorded Ricky Martin’s highly celebrated first English album, which includes the now legendary
single “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard album charts, skyrocketing afterwards to an astounding 20 million albums sold worldwide. For Martin’s album Sound Loaded (2000), Rosa produced four tracks, including the hit single “She Bangs.”
As if the success of these projects were not enough, he produced Corazón (1999), the platinum album of Latin pop star Ednita Nazario, for which he also wrote and produced the song “Más grande que grande” under the name Dolores del Infante, which reached a spot in the Top 10 Latin Billboards; he wrote and produced three songs for world-renowned singer Julio Iglesias’ album, Noche de cuatro lunas (2000); worked on a project for Interscope Records and was one of three singer/songwriters honored in Banco Popular's Chritmas Special Encuentro (2002) alongside Juan Luis Guerra and Rubén Blades.
Although all his work for other people summoned praise from critics and
fans alike, in 2002 Draco redirected his energies again toward his own
music. While he worked on new material, he released Libertad del
Alma, a compilation album which debuted at #11 on the Latin Album
Billboard chart based only on its sales in Puerto Rico. Then, after
two years of experimentation and sessions in studios around the world,
Draco released Mad Love on March 30, 2004. With most songs
in English, collaborations with musicians from the world over and two
videos included in the CD--for "Dancing in the Rain" and "Lie
Without a Lover," both directed by Angela Alvarado Rosa--Mad Love
debuted at #2 on Billboard's Heatseeker charts and was considered
the #1 Latin album of 2004 by New York Newsday. Moreover, the video
for "Más y más" (one of only four Spanish tracks
on the album), also directed by Angela Alvarado Rosa, won the 2004 Latin
Grammy Award for Best Video.
|Only a few months after the release of Mad Love, Draco released another compilation album destined specifically for the Latin market entitled Como me acuerdo, which included four new tracks along with some of his most revered songs. Around this time, he also kept busy touring around the world, in promotion for both albums. The tour enabled him to step on stages in many major US cities, as well as Japan, Singapore, England, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Panama, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, among others. In Argentina in particular, he closed the 2004 Rock al Parque, a multitudinous all-day musical extravaganza with a crowd of 150,000 people. And the tour could not leave out his native Puerto Rico, where he sold out the island's recently opened new Coliseum of about 15,000 seats. Entitled Al Natural, this last concert will be the basis for a DVD of his live performance, scheduled to be released in the summer of 2005.||
Among his numerous other projects, Draco is working on further developing the third subdivision of A Phantom Vox, Corp., www.phantomvox.com, an Internet site devoted to the art and culture of Puerto Rico with aims to expand globally, which the company launched on October 31st, 2001. In addition, he intends to become involved in writing movie soundtracks. Outside of his personal investments, musical and otherwise, he has also invested in the improvement of artistic and cultural life in Puerto Rico, sponsoring the island's Museo de Arte and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, and setting up an annual scholarship for an outstanding student at the Puerto Rico's Music Conservatory.
so many ventures at hand and two beautiful boys to raise alongside his
wife Angela, it is actually no wonder he could be termed "elusive":
eluding anything that were to stand in his way.
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