Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.


Tuesday, November 18, 2003

¡Óyela, Gózala!


The above title—in Spanish--comes from an old Celia Cruz song that I haven’t listened to in years. I have a lot of Latin music lying around and I have been rediscovering it after letting this field in my music collection lie fallow for quite some time. Who has time to listen to my dozens and dozens of Latin CD’s when I have to listen to Glenn Gould playing Bach’s second English Suite over and over for the past two years?

While in the process of burning my considerable Latin collection onto my laptop I have become reacquainted with some old favorites and discovered some new treasures. I thought some of you who haven’t been as influenced by Latin culture as I might want to take a peek at a sample of some of the best. Now where do I start? Instead of choosing a bunch of songs that will flow together I thought it best to sample as many different styles as possible. As in my Glenn Gould offer some time ago, I will send you a copy of this for free if you e-mail me your address. Don't worry about the postage, I'm stinking rich.

1) ROMANTICOS AL RESCATE, Luis Enrique A lot of guys who front salsa bands are just pretty boys who can sing but Luis is a talented song writer as well as a great singer. Put on this song and people will start dancing, I don’t care if you’re at a funeral. Luis also put out a pretty kick-ass pop CD (generally a genre I detest for its overproduction) entitled Genesis. Salsa has already sort of run its course of being trendy in this country, now it’s time for it to become popular like the Cuban music of the 1950’s.

2) SE VOCE ME OUVISSE, Beth Carvalho I don’t speak Portuguese so I have no idea what she is singing about and I don’t know what she looks like but Beth Carvalho needs to realize that I am her soul mate. I will buy any compilation of Brazilian music just to hear one song by this goddess--this cut is from a CD called Brazilliance that I’ve had forever and ever. I first heard samba on the radio when I was going to school in Lima, Peru and I loved it immediately. Samba is the opposite of an acquired taste: You are either a living, breathing soul and you love it, or you need to be lowered into your grave.

3) RANCHO DE CANUTILLO, Mazz The members of this TexMex band all sport lovely mullets on the CD cover…priceless. This song is the best Ranchera song I’ve ever come across. Rancheras tell stories and here’s the story to this one: Rosa Maria leaves her ranch to go shopping in town. Along the way she is held up by two scallywags whose intention goes beyond robbery ( acabar con su orgullo is about as vague as you can get to mean to violate) Rosa Maria’s boyfriend, Antonio, happens along and all hell breaks lose. Antonio caps the two would be evil-doers (There, I used GW’s dumb ass expression in a sentence) but Maria has taken a stray bullet and dies in his arms. Antonio is grief-stricken so he shoots himself. These songs often end in a bloodbath and often speak of sadness and loss; a man’s lover dies or God forbid if his horse should die. Rancheras are also noted for the high-pitched yells that you hear in Mexican music which can mean happiness, sadness, or drunkenness.

4) CON LOS ANOS QUE ME QUEDAN, Gloria Estefan Gloria’s husband, Emilio Estefan, is THE best producer of Latin music. Gloria and Emilio co wrote this beautiful song about finally being true and good to someone you have been with. With the years left she wants to show how much she loves her mate. Because Spanish isn’t my native language I think I love Gloria because she annunciates so perfectly.o

5) MEDITERRANEO, Joan Serrat Joan Serrat is Spanish, more specifically he is Catalan and sings in that language as well as Spanish. This song has a rather corny production but the subject matter begs me to include it on this list of my favorite Latin songs. Whenever I play this song I think back to when I lived there, spending countless summer days looking for another secluded cove to explore above and below the surface. A beautiful body of water, from Algiers to Istanbul, from Athens to Tel Aviv.

6) QUE GANAS DE NO VERTE MAS, India This Puerto Rican Amazon beauty sings with a passion and fire that is almost frightening. Then you listen to what she is singing and you ARE frightened. This isn’t a woman you would want to cross if you are her lover. In her song Ese Hombre she calls this dude every name in the book. The chorus goes, “You don’t have a heart.” On the cover she poses with a cigar in her mouth and she looks like she’d take a swing at you if you gave her half an excuse. I wouldn’t.

7) OJALA QUE LLUEVA CAFE, Juan Luis Guerra y 440 Let it rain coffee is probably the most popular song by this popular Dominican merengue band.

8) OVERJOYED, Marco Marco de Carvalho, Brazilian virtuoso guitarist and Seattle resident, plays this lovely solo instrumental version of the Stevie wonder classic--an arrangement that J.S. Bach would have been proud to claim as his own. I first heard this song while I was having lunch in a Seattle restaurant. I immediately stopped eating and started listening. I went to the front desk and asked who it was I had just heard. They didn’t know and they had one of those 100 CD changers that was playing on random so I had to sort through 100 empty cases. By process of elimination I found Marco’s CD called Paisajens (Landscapes). I have since had the pleasure of seeing him perform a couple times. He’s a true artist.

9) AZUCA DE CANA, Eva Ayllon A Peruvian song that celebrates the sugar cane harvest, the sun, and love. Like all Latinos, Peruvians love music and they love making music. I can’t remember how many times I would be in some crappy cantina somewhere in Peru and someone would start playing a guitar or banging on a can and the place would burst out into song like some corny Broadway musical. In Latin America no matter what you are doing or where you are, music is not very far below the surface and aching to come up for air.

10) MI SONCITO, Celia Cruz The mambo queen. I saw her perform at an outdoor festival in Miami that made Miami look more like Havana, Cuba than a city in Florida. If you don’t speak Spanish and you live in Miami you are absolutely kidding yourself—you are as likely to hear Celia Cruz on the musak in a Miami business as Britney Spears. That’s a good thing.

11) ALLEGRIA, The Gypsy Kings These guys were fairly popular a while back so I wasn’t sure if I was just beating a dead horse by raving about their music. This guitar instrumental entitled “Happiness” in whatever language these Spanish gypsies speak lives up to its name (this title isn’t quite Spanish although they do sing in Spanish). The music from this part of Spain owes as much to Arab influences as it does European traditions.

12) GUANTANAMERA, Vieja Trova Santiaguera This Cuban classic is performed as true to its roots as is possible by this group of old guys in their 70’s. If there were any justice in the world they would have been included in the Buena Vista Social Club phenomena. This is about as good as this song gets and that’s pretty good.

13) SONHU MEU, Gal Costa and Maria Bethania Portuguese is simply the best language for the human voice.

14) AMOR DE PLAYA, El Gran Combo El Gran Combo, from Puerto Rico, didn’t invent salsa music but they came pretty close to defining it over the years.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you can't say something nice, say it here.