Noel Petro enjoys a cup of coffee in a Bogotá cafe

Noel Petro enjoys a cup of coffee in a Bogotá cafe.

Credit:

Betto Arcos

Meet Noel Petro — guitarist and bullfighter.

This larger-than-life character is considered something of a Colombian Chuck Berry for his innovation on the electric guitar.

Since the 1950s, Petro has had hit after hit. Among his most famous tunes are: “Cabeza de Hacha,” “Azucena,” “El ñato,” “El Burro Mocho” and “Loco Rock.”

He's from Cereté, a small town in the province of Córdoba, Colombia.

In the early 1960s, inspired by Mexico's trio Los Panchos, Petro created the electric requinto, a lead guitar with a very tropical flavor. His songs are filled with humor and slapstick, including his own self-deprecating song "El Burro Mocho," the "blunt or broken donkey."

In addition to being such a funny, unusual character, there's another thing that blows you away: He's also a bullfighter.

Petro has even played a number of gigs where he does a bullfight and a music performance at the same venue. Once he was badly wounded by the bull and still went on stage, bleeding, singing his funny tunes.

He likes to tell the story when he played a double bill with Los Panchos in the Colombian city of Medellín: He said he was so excited to play a show with his long-time heroes, only to find out that Los Panchos were just as thrilled to meet him.

Here's a video of Petro performing his classic tune, “El Burro Mocho.”

A promoter in Bogotá once said to him: “Play and do the bullfight, people want to see you do both."

But Petro says he prefers to do them separately — “It’s very uncomfortable” to do both. 

It's not always in the artist's hands. And sometimes, the president of the bullring will decide which comes first, the music or the bullfight.

A bullfighter friend once told Petro, “I would not sing in the bullring, not knowing what kind of bulls you’re going to fight. They could be good or they could be ready to put up a fight.”

And Petro knows all about angry bulls.

“I’ve been gored and I played with a crack in my head and three loose ribs, and the ‘donkey’ sings as if nothing happened, and after the show to the hospital!” he says. “It’s incredible, that’s happened to me, it’s very serious.”

He pauses and says with a smile, “I’m used to it.”

Check out Noel Petro on lead guitar with Héctor Buitrago of the band, Aterciopelados:

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