A lesson in lyrics: El Taxi

They say that listening to music is a great way to improve your language skills. In my case, where my learning preference is visual rather than aural, this just doesn’t work unless I have the lyrics in front of me.

At the party after the baptism, we got to hear the ‘El Taxi’ song by Pitbull twice, with the kiddie entertainers leading a choreographed dance. I quite like this song, simply because it’s catchy, and obviously the kids like it too.

I was convinced that during the chorus it was:
“JoJo dar me por el taxi” which I was translating as “JoJo give me the taxi fare”.
This got cleared up by my colleagues this week when it was played in the office.

Correct lyrics are:
“Yo, yo le paré el taxi” which means “I stopped the taxi”.
My colleagues thought my mistake was pretty funny.

Reading over the rest of the lyrics I was shocked to read all the dirty double entendre which causes me pain for liking a tune against my better judgement of the nature of the lyrics. I could go on here about how I despise a lot of reggaeton and champeta music, and the accompanying dance moves, for their objectification of women as sex objects and make the same kinds of correlations they do between video games and violence with these songs and teenage pregnancies and sexual assault, but I won’t say anymore because it’s depressing and the best I can do is teach my stepson to be respectful of women and girls.

I just hope that these meanings are way beyond the kids’ grasp because here the kids start dancing as soon as they can stand up and there isn’t really much of a children’s music sector here so they dance to whatever the adults listen to – not age-appropriate Wiggles-type songs or the Peter Coombes “Brush your teeth with orange juice” kind of songs that I grew up with.

Here you can see just how much the kids enjoy El Taxi.

Colombia, the only risk is wanting to strangle your neighbours

I hate vallenato.

There, I feel better for admitting it. Despite how much I’ve tried tell myself “but this is Colombian culture, you’re not open-minded enough if you can’t embrace it” I will always intensely dislike this incessant, squeaky, loud, monotonous music that is only ever blared out of oversize speakers at a decibel warning level.

How did I finally come to confess this you may ask. Well, my day started like this:

Ahhh, Sunday, you beautiful sleep-in of a day with only relaxing things to do. Oh, except that I have to take D to a soccer game that starts at 7:50am. And we can’t go on the motorbike because it is waiting for my brother-in-law to fix it with his magical mechanic hands. So we’re up early. Although the funny thing is I didn’t need an alarm clock because the neighbour two doors down started the music up at 6:40am. Did I tell you it is Sunday?

Normal people (ie not costeños) would think twice before spinning the volume dial on their music up until it spins no more. Even more so you would expect this consideration when you live in a laneway that isn’t even 2m wide and every house is a terrace house, wall beside wall. But our fabulous neighbours have instead brought out their mega speaker to the front terrace, aimed it in the direction of our house and found the limit on the volume dial. Playing vallenato. That music I hate.

I couldn’t hear la suegra talking to me across the lounge room, and it wasn’t even 7am. I couldn’t even hear myself think. My brain started to crackle and frazzle with the fast accordion scratch and grate. Ooops, here arrives my bad mood.

I went to the corner store to buy breakfast supplies and my face withered into a sour, glowering scowl as I passed the neighbours sitting out the front of their house with their ears pressed up against the mega speaker. Perhaps the sound isn’t as loud as it is in their terrace as what it is inside my house. Maybe I should invite them to our lounge so we can shout at each other from the couch to the chair and continually repeat “que?

Unfortunately for me vallenato is the most popular music in Santa Marta. It screams at me from bars, shops, buses and of course the neighbours’ stereos. I long for a bit of Latin pop, the other neighbour’s old time ballads or even ranchero, Colombian country music mi novio sings along to badly, but the vallenato is escapable. Like the bad mood it brings on. I detest it so much I can’t even bring myself to search for a song to link to so you can experience it yourself and really know what I mean. Sorry but you’ll have to do it yourself (don’t worry, it won’t matter what song you find because they all sound the same).

I’m in serious need of a coping mechanism for dealing with the obnoxious sound, but can’t seem to find a calm space while it vibrates in my brain. I tell myself that if it is played at a normal volume it wouldn’t be so bad, but that’s never going to happen and I have to resign myself to living with vallenato.

Do you have any strategies for how I can accept vallenato and not end up strangling my neighbours? Or what would be the best annoying music for me to play at max volume on the terrace (assuming I had a super mega high wattage speaker)?

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually want to strangle my neighbours – it’s just a figure of speech – because except for the inconsiderate vallenato they are nice and always greet me with a buenas or adios when I pass with a non-vallenato-soured face.

Viva Nash Vegas

Is that not how the song goes?

Nashville surprised me. As I scanned the radio station for a country music channel playing something I could tap my toes to, I found a great city that can completely be related to Las Vegas – it is a city made of dreams.

The neon lit bars of Broadway splashed colour along the strip, enticing the hoardes of tourists in to hear the live music.

Cowboy boots and little floral dresses seemed to be the fashion statement of choice and more than one person had their photo taken with the giant guitar on the street corner.

Like Vegas, the main street was filled with people there to have a good time. And that vibe is infectious.

So even if you’re not into country music and Nashville isn’t your mecca, it still provides plenty of fun. Although don’t bother with the mechanical bull at Cadillac Ranch, it’s lame in comparison to the true country bull at PBR in Kansas City.

Ravers scare me too

Just like their hippie cousins, ravers also scare me.

Ravers in their Rainbow Brite fluoro colours, skimpy stripey Lycra clothing, glow sticks, face paint, pigtails and twirling props subscribe so wholly to their look that it can be a fine line between admiration for their dedication and fright by their determination.

At the Green Room in Flagstaff I watched these girls all decked out raver style dance with glowing props like hula hoops, twirling sticks, those nunchuck-skipping-rope type things and body paint dance on a stage in front of the DJ box.

I thought I’d seen it all, then out came a chick brandishing a plastic Aladdin sword with flashing bulbs on the handle. She rested it in between her blonde pigtailed dreadlocks and danced. Then she balanced it on her hip and danced. It was kind of raver meets belly dancer, and the seriousness on her face just made her look ridiculous, so I laughed out loud and covered my mouth in abject horror at the sight.

Then I knew I’d seen it all when a nude looking silhouette started dancing behind a backlit white sheet. With a proper look I discovered she was wearing underwear or a bikini, or at least something that gave her silhouette a visible panty line.

Completely overwhelmed by the ‘entertainment’ and people watching the eccentrics, I had to take my leave. There was just too much going on for me to process and I couldn’t even take it mildly seriously.

Excitable in Las Vegas

My second wind suddenly appeared at the same time as this song came on. Yes, Vegas is the place to unleash your inner silly and have a bucket-load of fun.

Thanks to Dustin for capturing the moment… I think.

Oh, and if you are thinking of replicating this, the day after this was filmed, an old-school arcade game was bolted to the bench, possibly to discourage such disrespect of common areas, or maybe just to add another mini podium.

Con los vaqueros

I got my first real sighting of Mexican cowboys at a place called Silver Saddle in Las Vegas. After a night at the club, I popped in there with Chandler on the way back to the hostel and found myself in the Hispanic equivalent of a b & s.

I had my handbag searched while Chandler was patted down by security for concealed weapons. I faced the establishment agape at all the beige and black cowboy hats, perched atop heads proudly displaying preened mustaches. While the bar was typically the domain of the male (including a sleeping male whose mustache was nodding towards the counter), the tables and dancefloor held mixed groups and couples.

They played cumbia, which I’m not a fan of, but the couples were getting into it as they held each other closely and trotted around the dancefloor in a type of waltzy, jig fashion.

It was something so far removed from what I’ve seen before, and it was the opposite of the glitz and sparkle of the Strip, but it was utterly fascinating and such a great place to see the stereotype of the vaquero.

I’m proud to be an …

American, is how the song goes. (Note: you might want to listen to the song on YouTube while you read this entry)

After hearing it for the first time during my ranch stay at Bar 10 in Arizona, my guess is that it is the American equivalent of “I am Australian”, a song to make you feel patriotic pride and give you goosebumps when you hear it, especially when on foreign soil.

The song came up during what the cowboys and cowgirls called the ‘program’, which is a lame description of an amateur show to give visitors a taste of the West. I cringed my way through it, feeling intense embarrassment for the staff who each had to wheel out a talent to entertain the 46 Americans and me who were stopping by for the night on the way to raft the Grand Canyon.

We were asked to stand as a large star spangled flag was carried out and held in reverence in front of us. Then people started to take off their hats and put their hands on their hearts as a recording of the song was played.

Now I’m not really sure of patriotic etiquette. I didn’t know whether I should also doff my hat out of respect, even though I am not American and they weren’t playing the national anthem, for which all the standing and heart-holding would be more appropriate. Thankfully I was right up the back so no one would have noticed that I left my cap perched on my head as I took in the lyrics.

Artist: Lee Greenwood
Song: Proud To Be An American

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin’ here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.