The story seems picturesque, crazy and even surreal, but it happened as it is told: Rosendo Mercado, the veteran rocker from Carabanchel (Madrid), traveled to Australia to offer several concerts to pay tribute to his namesake Fray Rosendo Salvado, a Galician missionary who founded a Benedictine community near Perth (west) in the mid-nineteenth century.
The events took place almost three years ago, but were released last week by the diplomat and writer Enrique Criado, Counsellor of the Embassy of Spain in Canberra between 2012 and 2015 and who has just published his second book, El paraguas balcánico (The Balkan umbrella).
In 2014, Criado recalls in his Twitter account, the Embassy had just inherited “a cultural project with little substance, the typical exhibition of panels that nobody reads, about a Galician missionary named Rosendo Salvado (born in Tui in 1814 and deceased in Rome in 1900)”.
“The life of Rosendo Salvado was for a novel -he traveled half the world, founded a community and was a pianist- but the exhibition was very poor and the Australian authorities were not enthusiastic about the politically incorrect idea of evangelizing aborigines”, he continued.
The solution to the problem came in October of that year, when the diplomat, doctor of philosophy and film director César Espada joined the Embassy. “As soon as the project fell into the hands of César, his intention was to give it a more modern touch, linking it with the current Spain”, recalled Enrique Criado.
“What if we bring Rosendo?”, Espada proposed, cited by Criado. “Against all odds, the Ambassador, the Directorate of Cultural Affairs and even the Australians gave the green light”, but Rosendo had yet to be persuaded to agree to travel to the antipodes to give a concert before the grave of the Galician missionary in the Abbey of New Norcia, founded by Rosendo Salvado himself in 1846.
“Rosendo summoned Cesar to a bar to say no, but when he heard him, he said: ‘The crazier this sounds, more I want to go. Count on me”. After a year and a half Rosendo landed in Australia, where in April 2016 he gave a concert in Canberra and another in New Norcia.
Besides, during his performances, in which he “offered a master class”, the Madrid rocker “was crazy for the local bands that covered his songs” and he was able to meet an Australian monk who was a musician and who played his classics at the organ. “They ended up taking him to a Perth den, where he played with the habit and everything”.
“Rosendo himself recognizes that in the four decades he has been rumbling around as musician this was the most surreal moment”, added Enrique Criado. The performances of the Carabanchel singer in Australia were filmed by César Espada himself in a documentary that has been shown at several festivals.