Last week, one of my music idols passed away. “El Joe Arroyo”, one of the best singers Colombia has given to the world, left us, leaving a legacy of beautiful music that will stay in our hearts for ever. A bright musician, who lived a life between fame, drugs and sickness, deteriorated his body to the point it could not recover. At age 56, “El Joe”, left this world and all I can say is: Joe, find peace in heaven and thank you for your music.
“EL Joe Arroyo” was born in Cartagena on November 1st, 1955. His musical career started when he was very young (13) singing in Cartagena’s brothels. In 1971 he became a nationally known artist when he joined the band “Fruco y sus Tesos”. He performed with the band for 10 years, until he began his solo career with his band “La Verdad”
Joe Arroyo became very successful by mixing salsa, soca, kompa, zouk and other music from the African Diaspora in a unique style that has earned him the prefix of Chonero de la Salsa by critics and fans.
Joe’s music is part of our culture, it is part of our lives, our memories, and ourselves.
Not long ago, I discovered a great radio show. Alt. Latino is a show on NPR (National Public Radio) that broadcasts new alternative latin music. This is a fantastic show and I’m specially excited about it for two reasons: One, when you are far from your country, it is hard to keep informed about the latest artists and albums. And Two, I’ve arrived to the conclusion that when you listen to music in your native language, the songs are automatically closer to your heart. It is fantastic to find in the US a radio show about alternative latin music; a genre that is not popular among Anglo countries for obvious reasons. For the most part, the latin music broadcasted in the US is mostly tropical with emphasis in Bachata and Regeaton. Most people don’t know that Latin music is very diverse and offers an immense variety of genres and new rhythms that are constantly evolving. It bothers me sometimes that latin culture gets stereotyped into loud music and dramatic soap operas. Anyway, if you enjoy alternative latin music, you can listen to the podcast here: http://www.npr.org/series/alt-latino/.
Thanks to Alt. Latino I discovered my newest favorite album; Hechizo (2011). In this album, artist from Latin America, Spain and even England pay tribute to Heroes del Silencio and their lead singer Enrique Bunbury through an amazing selection of songs. Their intensity, passion and style added to the songs allows you to rediscover and find new meaning in songs you have listened to many times. Some of the artist that participated in this album are Andres Calamaro, Pereza, Aterciopelados, Ariel Rot, among others. My Favorite songs are El Boxeador by a singer from Spain called Bebe and Maldito Duende by Andres Calamaro – One of my favorite artist of all times!
While listening to Hechizo I got into an “Heroes del Silencio” state of mind. I found an album from their reunion tour of 2007 – 11 years after they split up. I forgot how much I liked their songs, listening to them was like walking through memory lane. La Chispa Adecuada and Opio will always be some of my favorite songs…
Since I came back from vacation I’ve been searching for new music that I can enjoy while I’m at work. After all the reggaeton I had to listen to in Colombia, a detox from this genre was needed. I was surprise to see how reggaeton took over my country. According to my calculations, at least 80% of the radio stations over there, play reggaeton day and night. Even though I don’t hate it, it is hard to listen to it over and over. After a while all the songs start to sound the same and combine into a really long song that never ends. It only gets interrupted by the 20-year old commercial of a kid ( who by now is probably 40 years old) singing about Christmas. After a while, the music just becomes the background of your daily life and after a couple of weeks it is really hard to take. I remember that by the end of the trip my brother played a Modest Mouse CD and it sounded like heaven!
Anyway, as I was saying, I came back in search for new music that would help me get over my reggaeton overdose. I have developed the tendency to listen to music while I design; it helps me to focus, relax and disconnect from the craziness that some days goes around the office. Throughout the years, the beginning of a design has become like a ritual to me. Before the first lines, I must gather all the supplies I’m going to use such as pens, tracing paper, scale, makers, rulers etc. I go around the office searching for these special items that strangely disappear once I’m done with the project. Once I have all the things I need around my table, I select a playlist I like and hit play. That is the only way my ideas start to flow.
Yesterday, for some strange reason, the music wasn’t, right. I was having a hard time focusing until I ran into “Sinfonia Agridulce”. It is not easy to run into a song that would make you smile and this song not only made me smile, it made me laugh really hard. “Sinfonia Agridulce” is a cover, in Spanish, of the song “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verb. The cover, is by a group called Mexican Institute of Sound. Mexican Institute of Sound “is an electronic music project created by Mexico City-based DJ and producer Camilo Lara. By day, Lara is the president of EMI Mexico and at night he is the mastermind of M.I.S. Along with groups like Nortec Collective and Kinky, M.I.S. is part of a growing Mexican electronica movement, encouraging fusions of folk and more traditional music with modern sounds”1
“Sinfonia Agridulce” is a great cover because in my mind it has something I like to call the “The Bulldog Effect”. Bulldogs explain something that I have discovered lately. There are things in life that are so bad, or so ugly that at the end, you can’t help but seeing them as beautiful and pretty. Bulldogs are so ugly that they have become the cutest thing on earth. The same way this song is so bad that, at the end, it is fantastic. The vocals are terrible, the melody is the same but they introduce trumpets and instruments typical of a mexican Banda bringing images of a tacky piñata party. The lyrics are also very funny. At the end when you mix all these ingredients that by themselves are terrible, what you get is a great song that I think is it better than the original version.
This week my friend reminded me of a regueton group from Puerto Rico called Calle 13. I forgot how much I liked their music. Their lyrics are hilarious and completely insensitive. Their rhythms are catchy and basically their music makes me happy. When you listen to them, you just want to stand up and dance. That is the beauty of latin music, it is happy music. – or at least dramatic!
Anyway, my favorite song from Calle 13 is a collaboration they did with Cafe Tacuba, another fantastic group from mexico. This is not a regueton song, it has more of Cafe Tacuba’s sound which is hard to describe,- maybe a mix of rock and mexican band sounds – this is a great song,
This weekend we went to Miami for a wedding; one of my good friends from highschool was tying the knot and I wanted to see her and be with her on her special day. I have to admit that I’m always hesitant to go to Miami. I lived there for a year and even though it was great, there is something about this city I don’t like. I guess cities are like people; with some cities, you have great chemistry, with some you have a tough relationship. I have to say that I had a love/hate affair with Miami; I never felt comfortable in there and I can’t really explain why it didn’t work out. I guess not every city is for everyone and Miami is definitely not for me. I like going there for vacation, but I could never live there again. On the other hand, I most say that the fist time I saw Washington D.C, I fell in love; it was love at first sight. We have been together for 7 years and we are very happy. We enjoy each other’s company and still, after 7 years I find D.C. fascinating. I know that not everybody is perfect and that is why I try not to complain about D.C.’s windy winter.
Anyway, I can not deny that there are parts of Miami that are very charming, there are places that remind me of good friends I met and good times I spent there. There is a part of my life that will always be tied to this city. As I was driving around, I was thinking that the best part of Miami is when you find manifestations of cuban culture within the city. Simple things like the cuban coffee (1 spoon of coffee, 2 spoons of sugar and 1 drop of water), or places like cuban restaurants and bars, the people and their funny spanglish and off course, the cuban music make special this city that otherwise, would be a place without any character. That is what I like about Miami, its history and the “Banana Republic” it has become.
Every time I go to Miami or I see my friend R. (she doesn’t want me to reveal her name) I remember the night we went to “La Bodeguita del Medio” with some classmates. We had a great time listening to good music and telling stories. The highlight of the night was when I went on stage with a friend to sing Los Aretes de la Luna by la Sonora Matancera. I know I have a terrible voice, but that night every old cuban guy sang with us, and cheered us, except for my friend R who was so ashamed that went and hide somewhere in the bar. Miami brings me good memories,
Yesterday it rain continuously in Washington DC for at least 24 hours. I have been living in D.C. for 7 years and I have never experienced this crazy amount of rain; I reminded me of Bogotá of my soul. I guess what bothered me the most is that I wasn’t ready for it and off course the city was a mess. Last night I couldn’t sleep, maybe I had too much coffee during the day, maybe all the driving in the rain got to me, what ever the reason was; I was awake for a long time. As I was laying down in bed, listening to the constant rain, I started to sing – in my mind – songs about rain, and I came up with 10 great songs about rain, from salsa, to adult contemporary, you name it! . I guess rain has inspired many great songs. I don’t know if snow has the same effect on people, the only song I know about snow is Frosty the Snowman.
So here is my list of great song about the atmospheric phenomenon that is the rain (Lluvia in Spanish):
- Singing in the Rain – Gene Kelly: I love this song because it gives a positive spin on something so annoying, like the rain. I wish I could have that positive attitude every time it rains, but I just get frustrated.
- November Rain – Guns n Roses: This song was very influential in my younger years, it is fantastic and I just don’t have enough words to express how much I like it. The piano intro is unforgettable and Slash is the best guitar player ever.
- Lluvia – Eddie Santiago: Eddie Santiago is the king of a subgenre called porno-salsa… His songs are about desire and sweaty sheets. Most of them are tacky and dramatic, but he sings with so much heart that it is almost impossible not to like him.
- Blame it on the Rain – Milli Vanilli: Who didn’t sing Blame it on the Rain or Don’t forget my Number? Please don’t deny it, everybody liked Milli Vanilli at some point in their lives, their catchy songs, the leggings and wide shoulder suits will always stay in our memory, despite the scandal.
- Gotas de Lluvia – Grupo Niche: El Grupo Niche is one of Colombia’s Salsa embassadors to the world. Their songs are in the hearts of every colombian and Gotas de Lluvia is not the exception. I remember I knew all the dance steps featured in the video.. DISASTER
- No ha parado de Llover – Mana: Some people say that Mana is the Latin U2, I really don’t see the resemblance. I’m not a big fan of Mana, but I like this song.
- Why does it always rain on me – Travis: Travis has amazing songs and this one is fantastic, it captures the mood I’m in when ever it rains.
- No Rain: Blind Melon: This song is a Classic!
- Kiss the rain: Billie Myers: Beautiful ballad
- I can see clearly now – Johnny Nash: Great song
I hope you guys enjoyed my music selection, and I also hope it doesn’t rain today again!
For the longest time, one of my favorite latin songs was from a mix a friend gave me a couple of years ago. I listened to “Track 5” over and over for months. Eventually I got tired of it, the CD got lost, as well as, the copy I had in my computer. Years later the song popped in my head and I had to google it to find its name and author. “Un Pacto” is a song by an argentine group called Bersuit Vergarabat. I never liked this group and I couldn’t believe they had made such beautiful love song. At that time, they were known for their hard rock, political music and that is definitely not my cup of tea. – I don’t like political or environmentalist music.
Because of that song, I put aside my feelings towards the group and decided to give them another chance. I bought De la Cabeza; a live album released in 2002. This is a great record to have, of course I always skip the hard political rock songs, but other than that, De la Cabeza has amazing songs. “Vuelos” is another fantastic song from this album, this song is in the soundtrack of the movie Garage Olimpo (1999).
Garage Olimpo “…is about a young politically active Argentine woman who is kidnapped by the military during Argentina’s Dirty war in the late 1970s. She is taken to a torture center called Garage Olimpo in the middle of Buenos Aires.”1 In the album, La Bersuit dedicates the song to the mothers and grandmothers of the people that never came back.
In 2005, Bersuit Vergarabat released the album Testosterona and in September of 2006 the single “Esperando el Impacto” was released. This song was number one on music charts in Argentina and Latin America. This is a great song!