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Gustavo Santaolalla

Sound & vision: Kerouac lures Argentine back on the road

Gustavo Santaolalla has decided on only one film scoring job since accepting the Oscar for his work on “Brokeback Mountain”: He’ll do the music for Walter Salles’ “On the Road.”

On the surface, the choice is poetic justice for a composer whose breakthrough film was a road movie of a different stripe, “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a sort of spiritual precursor to “On the Road,” with Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Alberto Granado representing real-life counterparts to Jack Kerouac’s fictional heroes Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty.

For a man with no formal music training, the L.A.-based Argentine musical wunderkind finds himself atop the film scoring world, a gig that’s just one aspect of a multifaceted career that includes running his own Universal-distributed Surco label.

The summer was spent criss-crossing Europe with his tango-based electronica act, Bajofondo Tango Club; working in Argentina with Cafe de los Maestros; and producing Mexican rock stalwarts Cafe Tacuba and the solo debut of Spanish gypsy musician Antonio Carmona.

“I enjoy all of it,” he says while taking a few days off with his family in Tangiers. “It all overlaps. I work on one project, then go to another, and somehow when I return, I have a fresh point of view. I retain a level of innocence.”

Santaolalla, 54, began with his own rock band, Arco Iris, and turned to scouting and producing acts from Mexico and South America. Besides Cafe Tacuba, he produced Juanes, Molotov and Julieta Venegas.

His resume in film is rather compact — six films in six years. Awaiting release is “Babel,” the final pic in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s trilogy; Santoalalla also scored his “Amores perros” and “21 Grams.”

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