When the tremor passes

When the tremor passes ” is a song and simple created by Gustavo Cerati and played by Argentine rock band Soda Stereo , is one of the group’s best known and classic songs and one of Latin rock’s massive hits . The track was released on the album Nothing Personal , in 1985 , as the third track. It has been considered the number 68 among the 100 best Argentine rock songs, in the ranking made by MTV and Rolling Stone magazine . 1 The video was chosen finalist of the 12th “World Festival of Video and TV” of Acapulco .


Paradoxically, this does not make the lyrics do not disturb, but quite the opposite. The mental images and anguish generated by a “stone” world subjected to “trembling , identification with the singer when he confesses to oscillate between “fear” and “shame”, the emotional commotion when Cerati goes beyond hope And affirms that he knows that he will find her among the ruins and kiss in the temple , and finally peace, “wake me up when the trembling passes ,” the title phrase. Some have understood that the song speaks of orgasm or a great social tragedy (like dictatorships ), natural or personal. 2As is often the case in most of Soda Stereo’s work, it is a cryptic letter. But in the case of “When the tremor passes” that darkness in its meaning is especially accentuated. The lyrics are made up of non-articulated images and emotions, in the manner of a collage , as if it were a series of raw messages, tuned by chance.

Tilcara , a city of pre- Columbian origin , belonging to the Omaguaca civilization . Jujuy ( Argentina ), near the border with Bolivia . There was the video of “When the tremor passes”.

In each country the song has been interpreted according to the historical moment in which it was lived. Particularly in Mexico , the same year that the theme was launched, the terrible earthquake of 1985 occurred , the worst of its history, of magnitude 8.1 on the Magnitude of Moment scale , which destroyed much of the DF and killed about 10,000 people . 3 Cerati himself said that he took that disaster into account when composing the song, recalling the band’s first visit to Mexico:

“I have two very present memories … Perhaps the most enduring has to do when we play after the earthquake. It was my turn to sing “The Tremor” in a place where a real tragedy had happened. I remember when I sang the part that says “… when the tremor passes” I was feeling strange. I made a lot of noise that. ” 4

Charly Alberti , for his part, recalls that in Chile “people sang that the regime (of Augusto Pinochet ) was over when we played” When the tremor passes “». 5

Although the song is autonomous of the video, both finally complement each other in their meaning.


The subject could well be defined as “Andean rock”, 6 built on a fusion of carnavalito and reggae in new wave rhythm . Very audacious, especially if one takes into account the time, of predominance hegemónico of the rhythms in vogue in the international market. Anticipate a general trend of Latin American rock in the 90 to merge the traditional styles of international rock rhythms with Latin . 1

“” When the trembling passes “was one of the first songs that came out, about an idea that I already had, inspired by landscapes I knew as a boy, from the Argentinean northwest. And it is a bit of a fusion, not forced, of a kind of reggae with an air of carnivalito; We began to like what emerged and I began to write about that place I remembered. At the same time, a terrible earthquake in Mexico had not happened long ago; I was very impressed with that news, and I related it to something totally emotional. ”

Gustavo Cerati 1

The original version of the track included in the album Nada personal , has a very elaborate introduction initiated with the hype (like Andean box ) establishing the rhythm next to a base of tambourine (reproducing the sounds of the chajchas ), to which He adds first the electric guitar (simulating a charango air ) and then the bass with a brief but forceful five-note riff that opens the way to the sikus (played by keyboard by Fabián Vön Quintiero ) that finish defining the Andean air . 7

Cerati’s singing, almost without choirs, as is usual in Soda Stereo, is based on a remarkable counterpoint between the zampoñas and the bass, which somehow brings to the fore the tension between the genres and the cultures that merge in the song. In fact the bass is the only instrument of the band that is not assimilated to any Andean instrument; Unlike the others (the drums executed as bass drum and box , guitar as a charango , keyboard as siku and tambourine as chajcha No. 1 ), the bass remains as a strange presence in that landscape. And yet, far from retreating, it makes its difference visible by imposing an openly non-Andean rhythm, although curiously compatible with carnivalito . The final scene of the video, in which Cerati takes the hand of a child omaguaca and the four descend from pucará again to the town of Tilcara , somehow synthesizes both the tension of diversity as fusion.


The music video, directed by Alfredo Lois , was a historical landmark for Latin rock . By then the MTV network was just beginning to pay attention to the Latin American bands. Soda Stereo was the first Argentine band to broadcast a video on MTV and it was a success. Referring to Fig.

The video was made in Tilcara and in the ruins of the pucará that are there, remains of a pre- Columbian omaguaca fort located in the Andean region of the Argentine northwest . It begins with brief scenes of 11 seconds in which a succession of drawings made with the style shown Andean pre – Columbian cultures of northwestern Argentina (which are not usually reproduced in the transmissions). Among the drawings appear first three human figures with hair standing (the band had then adopted the aesthetic punk ) and then a human figure, possibly a omaguaca (similar to drawing musicians), together with a flame (actually, it is Of two figures, and the second is an approach of the human figure next to a flame). Below is a Zeta Bosio across the bridge that crosses over the Huasamayo River , through which you access the pucará , and then the members of the band walking by Tilcara before appearing in old Pucará (strong) omaguaca , which dominates Strategically the step. Before going down to the village, Gustavo Cerati or Zeta Bosio , waits for the rest at the entrance to the cemetery of Tilcara, which years later will refer Leon Gieco in his song Los Salieris de Charly .

The song is built on images posterized of Gustavo singing the theme works a few months before, and scenes of the three musicians punk dancing, singing and making music in the dusty ruins of an old Andean civilization (Zeta playing siku on the monolith Pucara that Represents Tiahuanaco , Gustavo moving between narrow stone corridors, Charly playing a gaucho legüero drummer like a battery, all surrounded by cardones ).

Even the aesthetics of the staging of the same band does not simulate, but rather it underscores the artifice and denatures the perception, as illustrated in the clip “Cuando pase el temblor” (1985, Soda Stereo), in it the accentuated makeup , The hairstyles and the silk clothes in the Pucará de Tilcara, show the twist of the artifice that remarks its character of aesthetic construction in the middle of the unexpected landscape of this pre-Hispanic settlement of the Argentine Northwest. Referring to Fig.

The contrasts can not be more evident and it is obvious that there is no attempt to dilute them. The video works, precisely, with the effect that produces in the viewer the contrast between worlds and cultures so different, with a clear message of fusion without renouncing identity. In fact the posterized that is constantly used in the video, clearly alludes to the idea of ​​contrast. The last stanza closes with the posterized image of an omaguaca child , which is transformed into a natural image, to take Gustavo’s hand and descend with the band towards Tilcara, as if they were old acquaintances. 10

For the musical closing, the video uses the images of the band playing in the recital of Obras and the public jumping, to round off the message of contrasts that extends throughout the length of the video. 10

Tilcara and the pucará

Before the Europeans arrived in America, Tilcara was an autonomous manor of the Omaguaca Confederation , a culture belonging to the great Andean Civilization whose expression most known was the Inca Empire . It was an advanced agro-pottery culture based on maize , in the process of creating cities and the state . Its territory coincided with a strategic step that would take its name, the Quebrada de Humahuaca and to defend it established four pucarás (“strong” in Quechua ), one of them the Tilcara .

From the Pucará de Tilcara the Omaguacas resisted the invasions of the Incas in the fifteenth century and those of the Spanish in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in the latter case in what was called the Calchaquíes Wars , commanded among others by a famous Omaguaca leader , Viltipoco .

At present, Quebrada de Humahuaca , declared World Heritage of Humanity, in the province of Jujuy , is heiress of that old culture and maintains many of its traditions and knowledge, among them music. The Quebrada de Humahuaca, in Argentina, is the center of creation and diffusion of Andean music , with musicians of worldwide fame like Jaime Torres and Mariano Uña Ramos . It is well-known the musical celebration that there is realized annually and that is called Tantanakuy . Andean music is characterized by its basic pentatonic structure . It uses intensively the wind instruments, made with cane and wood ( sikus , quena , pincullo , erke ) and elements of percussion as the Andean box and the chajcha . After the Spanish conquest the charango joined the group of fundamental Andean instruments. The carnavalito and Huayno Andean, on which When the shaking stops built his rhythmic skeleton, are characteristic of the region Humahuaca, and the entire Andean region shared with Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

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Gustavo Cerati used to compose the song and to play the video the fact that his family used to go to Pucará de Tilcara frequently when he was a boy, 11although many people mistakenly think that the video was recorded in Peru when in fact it was in Argentina near The border with Bolivia . About the song, the Colombian singer Juanes stated the following:

The ‘tremor’ was the first song I heard from them, it was the one that sounded in Colombia first. I love it (get together). Why not, if they are alive? They are a total legend. They have marked a very important story for all Latin American youth and to see them together again, it’s going to be a great, great event. 12


Soda Stereo has made several versions of “When the Tremor Passes” with some notable differences. The classic version is that of the video, which responds to the one included in the album Nada personal .

Starting from the original version was realized a sung in English, reversed by the same group with the same melody and instrumentation, but sung in English by the same Gustavo Cerati. It was created with a tentative attempt by the group to enter the English-speaking music market. At present it is very scarce and unpublished and is not found, did not exist or exist, no commercial register of it, reason why is considered a rarity. 13

In addition to the live versions (among which the one made in the program Videomatch in 1995) Soda Stereo realized a reversion of “When the tremor passes” in the album Zone of promises of 1993.

In most live performances has been interpreted attached to ” Zoom ” (since the launch of this song in 1995), when it ends “Zoom” begins immediately “When the shaking stops,” for example in Comfort and music to fly ( MTV Unplugged ) or on the Tour You’ll See Me Back .

In his return of 2007 for the tour You will see me return , the song was included like one of the high points of the repertoire. In River Plate , on October 19 of that year, Soda Stereo interpreted “Zoom” and “When the trembling passes”, without pausing between them once again. In this last subject, as a mockery of the recognized “musical genre”, the choir was spontaneously changed to “Wake me up … when reggaeton happens” at that moment changed the rhythm of the song to reggaeton that lasted more than 40 seconds until the end of the Song, plus a tropical version of 10 seconds, triggering the general laughter. 14


  1. Back to top↑ The chajchas is an Andean rhythmic instrument, which is made as a bunch of llama or goat nails, and is executed by shaking them.
  1. ↑ Jump to:a b c Soda Stereo and Gustavo Cerati among the 100 Hits of Argentine Rock. The songs that made history, told by its protagonists. , Promises Zone
  2. Back to top↑ WMP STAFF (August 6, 2014). «SODA STEREO -” WHEN THE TREMOR PASSES “. # TRACKDELDÍA » . Twmp.com.mx . Consulted the 17 of November of 2016 . “There are controversies that proclaim the song is really about an orgasm or social tragedies.”
  3. Back to top↑ When the quake passes , Soda Mexico
  4. Back to top↑ Gustavo Cerati: the Mexican is a wonderful town , Circo Magazine, September 21, 2007
  5. Back to top^ Soda Stereo and Gustavo Cerati among the 100 Hits of Argentine Rock. The songs that made history, told by its protagonists , Zone of promises
  6. Back to top↑ Bolivian cross in defense of the charango. Andean rock is heard in New York, claiming the rich cultural heritage of Bolivia , Argenpress, October 14, 2007 ; “” Root “puts the patch in a certain way. This theme, which includes a sampling of the Chilean folklore group Los Jaivas, looks like a 90’s version of the legendary “When the tremor passes”, with the zampoñas and drums (sampled, clarify) of rigor … » Gustavo Cerati: Here and now , by Carlos Quinto, Interzona Cine Magazine
  7. Back to top↑ Tired of the ambiguous, Page / 12, Supplement No, August 18, 2005
  8. Back to top↑ «Soda Stereo, 20 years after the earthquake» . Lagaceta.com.ar . May 3, 2006 . Consulted the 17 of November of 2016 . “” When the tremor passes “was the first Argentine work on MTV, and opened the doors of Latin America to other groups.
  9. Back to top↑ Minelli, María Alejandra (September 11, 2006). “Some minor forms of the Argentine culture of ends of century XX” . Astrolabio (Córdoba: National University of Cordoba ) (4). ISSN  1668-7515 . Retrieved on October 17, 2012 .
  10. ↑ Jump to:a b When the tremor passes , video; Director: Alfredo Lois, 1985, Buenos Aires.
  11. Back to top↑ Soda Stereo. 20 years after the earthquake , La Gaceta de Tucumán, May 3, 2006
  12. Back to top↑ Juanes, Santaolalla and others look forward to Soda Stereo , Yahoo News, AP, September 19, 2007
  13. Back to top↑ «Grinberg» . Online Conference . Mendoza. January 29, 2015.
  14. Back to top↑ «” Wake me up … when the reggaeton passes “» . Powered by Blogger . 22 October 2007 . Retrieved on October 17, 2012 .