Kacho López Mari: PART II

Kacho López Mari

In PART I of the series on Kacho López Mari, you left off on his collaboration with Tego which then opened more doors for López Mari's genius to materialize. Tego asked him to help with the visuals for his first big concert in Puerto Rico at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. While López Mari was working with Tego, he got an unexpected call from Ángelo Medina, one of Puerto Rico’s most important music executives and managers. 

“He had many artists. Not only big artists. I did not think he’d call me for such a huge artist. I only had one music video done. He calls me and tells me he wants to speak with me,” López Mari remembered amazed. “I go to the office. I find out that it was Ricky Martin the one who saw Tego’s video and he wanted the person who did Tego’s video to do one for his next album. I’m telling you; this was after “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” He made the jump to [singing in] English and sang “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “She Bangs,” which was what made him huge.”

Kacho López Mari and Ricky Martin working together. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
Kacho López Mari and Ricky Martin working together. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

Ricky Martin wanted to transition back to singing in Spanish and he did so with his songs “Jaleo” and “Tal Vez.” López Mari ended up directing the music videos for the two songs, which was a huge accomplishment for him at the time. It was so huge that he felt overwhelmed. But, to get to the point of directing those music videos, López Mari was asked to pitch ideas to Ricky Martin while competing with 15 other directors.

 

Ricky Martin was very determined to have the artist who did Tego’s video pitch ideas to him. That meant López Mari needed to prepare a music video treatment, which is a document that outlines the video production with concepts, direction, aesthetics, and style. Ricky Martin liked his idea so much for “Tal Vez,” that he then asked López Mari for another proposal for “Jaleo” and he delivered.

López Mari’s video for Ricky Martin’s Tal Vez song.

In 2003 López Mari did an interactive pitch on CD rom where Ricky Martin could see the references and read the treatment at the same time. Due to López Mari’s experience in graphic design, he was able to create an interactive and innovative proposal that was not the norm at the time. 

“It was my first time filming abroad. One [video] was filmed in Argentina in Buenos Aires and the other one in Salvador of Bahía in Brazil,” López Mari said. “I had never filmed anything. Not even in Puerto Rico. I started that year and I didn’t even have in mind the possibility of filming outside of Puerto Rico.”

López Mari’s video for Ricky Martin’s Jaleo song.

 

It was also a coincidence that when Ricky Martin asked him where in the world he saw “Jaleo” filmed, he answered Salvador of Bahía. At the time, López Mari had spoken with a friend who visited Salvador of Bahía.  López Mari mentioned the Brazilian city because of how amazed his friend was from that trip. As soon as López Mari talked about Salvador of Bahía, Ricky Martin told him it was one of his favorite places in the world. That coincidence excited López Mari. This project that was unfolding would become one of his favorite experiences that would mark a before and after in his career. 

Attending His “Personal” Film School

“At the moment I was working on my second and third music videos around the world along with an impressive team. Ricky gave me the opportunity of working with photographer Andrzej Sekula, who’s the photographer for Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, American Psycho, you name it,” López Mari recalled excitedly. “And I also worked with art director Brigitte Broch. She was the production designer for Amores Perros and the set decorator and Oscar winner for Moulin Rouge.”

 Kacho López Mari and Andrzej Sekula on set filming for Ricky Martin. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
 Kacho López Mari and Andrzej Sekula on set filming for Ricky Martin. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

It was a very impressive time for López Mari because he was very young and had very little experience. He was working with a team of some of the best artists in the world and getting his own personal film school experience from the big leagues where he was learning the craft of filmmaking. 

“That was the film school that I didn’t have. How to see the shots. How to see where the camera goes. How to see the set’s colors. How to see a set’s textures. How to build imaginary worlds based on the ideas that we could have, in my case, about those artists’ songs,” López Mari said. “It was very, very impressive. That experience was very, very important for me.”

He was on a journey of more extraordinary and iconic moments. By that point, López Mari already had three videos out. One for Tego and two for Ricky Martin. His next legendary achievement was directing  Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” music video, which was a song that set a defining moment for reggaeton in the world.

Lighting Up the “Gasolina”

“My fourth music video was Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” It was just like the first video. Well, the first one didn’t make it globally, but it was the one that opened the door so that “Gasolina” was possible,” López Mari recalled. “Tego was that bridge that took reggaeton to New York, Los Angeles, and Florida. He was the one who took it outside of Puerto Rico. But, then, Ricky Martin, who’s the Boricua in the middle of our contemporaneity, takes the Puerto Rican flag around the world being the world’s number one [artist]. That’s where my story with these number one artists begins.”

Kacho López Mari and Daddy Yankee working together. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
Kacho López Mari and Daddy Yankee working together. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

He's always next to the world’s number-one artists. As it happens, “Gasolina” also reached number one on many lists when it was released and currently it’s a song that’s made history in Latin American music. At the time that López Mari was directing the video, he was working in the Dominican Republic. Daddy Yankee called him and López Mari told him and his team to come over. They filmed the video at the Autódromo Internacional de las Américas in Santo Domingo and the rest was history. At the time, none of them had any idea how successful “Gasolina” would become globally. 

López Mari’s video for Daddy Yankee’s iconic Gasolina song.

 

López Mari was there next to iconic Latin American artists delivering legendary music videos. He continued working on more videos with Tego and  Don Omar. However, around 2006 or 2007, he decided to take a break from directing music videos to focus more on commercials. 

“At a certain moment during 2006 or 2007, I stopped doing music videos until 2013. Those were almost seven years of doing only TV commercials. When I come back to music it’s because my friends from Calle 13 call me,” López Mari said. “They tell me: hey, we’d like you to come with us to our tour to document it and generate the content for it. But we’d also like to do a video, which is the name for the album’s title Multi_Viral.”

Kacho López Mari and René Pérez Joglar, better known as Residente, behind the scenes filming the music video for Multi_Viral. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
Kacho López Mari and René Pérez Joglar, better known as Residente, behind the scenes filming the music video for Multi_Viral. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

Undertones of Social and Political Commentary

Around 2013, López Mari faced a new challenge with very social and political underpinnings. Calle 13 wanted to film the video in Israel and Palestine but because the region is rife with conflict,  they didn’t know if they could produce the video. His wife,  Tristana Robles, who also serves as executive producer, recruited experts to assist them in production. 

“This is one of my favorite videos that I’ve ever done in my life. It’s the story of three children who take a machine gun, an AK47, and transform it into a guitar,” López Mari said. “That’s where those social videos start. It was an impressive experience to go to a war zone to do a video. It was very exhilarating. Very fulfilling. You were scared but wanted to do it. A lot of enthusiasm, but it came with mixed feelings.”

López Mari’s video for Calle 13’s Multi_Viral song featuring Julian Assange, Kamilya Jubran, and Tom Morello.

 

The production of the video entailed doing a casting call for the children. Only five children showed up and of those five, three were chosen. They faced another challenge in producing the video when the Israeli army tried boycotting the production on numerous occasions but to no avail.


This led to more collaborations with Calle 13 for the same album Multi_Viral, which was the band’s last album. López Mari directed the video for the song “Ojos Color Sol,” which landed him his first Latin Grammy award for Best Short Form Music Video and it was his first time working with Hollywood actors such as  Gael García Bernal and  María Valverde.

López Mari’s award-winning video for Calle 13’s Ojos Color Sol song featuring Silvio Rodríguez.

 

After “Ojos Color Sol,” López Mari’s story repeated itself again. Another artist, Colombian singer  Juanes, saw the video and decided he wanted a video done by the same director. 

Juanes and Kacho López Mari hard at work. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
Juanes and Kacho López Mari hard at work. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
KachoLópezMari&TristanaRoblesLatinGrammys.jpg: Kacho López Mari and producer Tristana Robles happily holding the Latin Grammys. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
KachoLópezMari&TristanaRoblesLatinGrammys.jpg: Kacho López Mari and producer Tristana Robles happily holding the Latin Grammys. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

Directing Award-Winning and Iconic Masterpieces

“Juanes calls me. I go to his house to meet with him and that’s how we met. Up until now, Juanes is the person I’ve made the most videos with,” López Mari said. “I’ve done 20 videos for Juanes. But we’ve done very crazy things. Music videos that are really long stories, where we tell stories in four songs instead of one. With that one [Loco De Amor, La Historia] we won another Latin Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.”

López Mari’s award-winning video for Juanes’s Loco de Amor, La Historia short film.

 

After the music video, López Mari and Juanes worked on a one-hour film called Mis Planes Son Amarte, which is about Juanes’ album with the same title. As usual, López Mari is loyal to music videos, but he says, while laughing, that he’s been retiring from the music video genre for the past 10 years. Yet, he always gets a call that convinces him to continue directing music videos. 

From left to right: Bad Bunny, Noah Assad, Tristana Robles (back), and Kacho López Mari behind the scenes for Bad Bunny’s Callaíta music video. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
From left to right: Bad Bunny, Noah Assad, Tristana Robles (back), and Kacho López Mari behind the scenes for Bad Bunny’s Callaíta music video. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

“A weird thing happened and we got a call from Rimas Entertainment. One of our producers [at Filmes Zapatero] worked with Rimas,” López Mari said. “She told them: you should check out Kacho’s work. You don’t have videos from him. And that’s when we get a call to do one of my favorite videos I’ve ever done in my life. It was “Callaíta” for Bad Bunny.”

Frame from Bad Bunny’s Callaíta music video. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.
Frame from Bad Bunny’s Callaíta music video. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

That was the first collaboration López Mari did for Bad Bunny, which was a great opportunity for him and Filmes Zapatero. As usual, the first opportunity is the most important for him because it’s the one where he either makes it or breaks it. And he really made it big time with the music video for “Callaíta.” It’s López Mari’s first video garnering an astounding  one billion views on YouTube. It’s one of only 300 videos on YouTube that belong to the billions club. 

López Mari’s video for Bad Bunny’s song Callaíta.

 

López Mari collaborated with Bad Bunny to convey the perfect summer with the natural beauty of a Puerto Rican beach. 

“Very conceptual. If you were to dream of the perfect summer, where would it be? Which would be the colors. Where would the sun be? Would it be at a beach, but which one,” López Mari explained. “That way things were getting defined and you reach an aesthetic. A visual proposal that satisfies the artist, who’s the client, but that also satisfies us as artists and creators.”

Frame from Bad Bunny and Aventura’s music video Volví. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari
Frame from Bad Bunny and Aventura’s music video Volví. Courtesy of Kacho López Mari.

“Callaíta” was just the tip of the iceberg for the collaboration between López Mari and Bad Bunny. That video led to other projects including Bad Bunny’s “Volví” video with the return of U.S. bachata group Aventura and filming Bad Bunny’s live concerts for the Último Tour del Mundo and Un Verano Sin Ti tours. 

López Mari’s video for Aventura and Bad Bunny’s song Volví.

 

These projects then led him to direct Bad Bunny’s music video turned documentary El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente, which is a staple of López Mari’s art: film direction merged with music that generates political statements exposing very strong social issues.

 

To find out what El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente is all about and how it‘s one of López Mari’s many political statements, read PART III. 


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