Photo credit: Rodrigo Higuimaran Veiga
NATY (short for Natalia) GIACHINO is a drummer from Uruguay who has lived in Chile and in the U.S. She has recently arrived in London, and is looking forward to getting to know the scene here. This article was produced with assistance from Catherine Ford.
I’m Naty Giachino, a woman and, yes, a drummer from Uruguay. My journey began when I started playing drums at 15 years old. When I was a teenager I used to spend long hours at a recording studio which a friend of mine owned. This was the first time that I had the chance to sit behind a kit and practise every day after school, listening to the likes of Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta and Omar Hakim. One day, I came home from the studio and told my mother I wanted a drum set and thankfully she said: ‘yes!’ Being so young it would have been very difficult without her support.
I was educated and mentored by the legendary Uruguayan drummer Osvaldo Fattoruso who taught me to never give up. Apart from being an extraordinary musician he was a determined man who, despite being terminally ill, played all the way up to the week before he died. He never once complained or surrendered to his illness and continued to give his life to music until the very last minute. It was an important lesson for me to take away, that mental strength can be just as crucial as your drumming technique.
Despite a small population of just over three million and an inherent lack of funding for the arts, the music scene in Uruguay is surprisingly vibrant – very much like the national football team!
There are a number of hugely talented musicians of all genres, playing festivals all year round, even though they struggle with a lack of finance and infrastructure that makes it very difficult to earn a living. You have to become very creative to fashion ideas for gigs, sometimes being out of pocket to do so. I spent time working as a promoter in the city to generate as many possibilities to play as I could. As much as I enjoyed doing so, the best chance I had to make a living was to move abroad.
When I was first learning, I used to study rigorously for eight hours a day and did not get many chances to play professionally until I moved to Chile where I joined several bands and played three or four gigs a day during their summer seasons. It is a very touristic, paradisal country which allowed me to earn my first ever salary with my Peruvian cajón and a very rudimentary Pearl Traveller drum set.
Chile has the advantage of having a stable economy which invests funding into music. They have a number of jazz schools and dedicated universities that offer young people the chance to actually forge a career in the industry. This being the case, it does not automatically make anything easier for a woman to integrate into a male dominated industry.
It takes time for a female drummer to be accepted and taken seriously and there were a number of times when I had to deal with comments such as ‘I am surprised how good you are considering you are a girl’. I was often mistaken by sound technicians and venue owners for someone’s girlfriend or even a bartender as a woman was never expected to be the drummer. After the shows, it was surprising how many of the comments were centered on me being a female drummer, sometimes more so than my proficiency.
The first time that I came to play in England was when I was approached by a band looking for a session drummer to record an EP. After playing successfully for a number of years in Chile and Argentina gaining a reputation as a professional female musician, I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity and I travelled to Brighton and spent a few weeks recording at Skyline Studios. London’s music scene is world-famous, but I was taken aback by the sheer volume of venues that were scattered across the coast.
It was during this time that I heard from Tom Tom Magazine in New York, a publication that is dedicated only to female drummers within the industry, who had the following to say about me at the time:
‘Naty Giachino, a beauty and native of Uruguay, South America, is a drummer with much soul and plenty of heart. She has a passion for the drums and is an unabashed player’. Jen Ruano, Tom Tom Magazine.
I was invited to join a female drummer’s workshop in the U.S. off the back of this interview which was a great honour.
I also had the chance to work with Guy Pratt, who is David Gilmour’s bass player. It was great as I gained experience being part of the organisation of his South American Tour as well. Playing in a number of countries, for a number of television shows, radio stations and several amazing recording studios, I have been fortunate to witness how music and the arts are appreciated and developed in different places. The one common denominator is that irrespective of where you are in the world, and what level you play, the music industry can be testing for a woman looking to fashion a career. You will have to face all kinds of obstacles along the way. The most important thing to remember is that if you dedicate yourself to a craft, and are not afraid to take risks, then there is absolutely no reason why you cannot have a rewarding and fruitful journey.
For anyone interested, the recent Rolling Stones documentary Olé, Olé, Olé, A trip Across Latin America, has a great insight into the Uruguayan music scene. It is commonplace for musicians of all genres to congregate around someone’s house to play. Mick Jagger visits la casa de El Lobo (The Wolf’s house), one of the greatest percussionists in the country, and in three minutes you can feel the heart, soul, passion and also poverty and misery of our tiny but marvellous city.