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.

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.

Tis the season for party dancing

There’s not much I love more than carving up the dancefloor at a party.

It could be a house party, private party or wedding, if there is good music, I will be taking my sharpest dance skills to carve up the floor.

I don’t know why, but it is so much more liberating to dance at a party. I always let way loose on the dancefloor, pulling out all the stops and contort my face and body like it’s an extreme sport.

Perhaps it has to do with more space on the dancefloor in which to show off the grooves that get the cheers, or maybe it’s just that you are among like minded people that you either know or or could potentially know. Either way, there just isn’t the same kind of posing as the dancefloor of a club, where everyone is trying to look better than the next person and where a sour face tries to scare off unwanted attention yet at the same time seem just hard enough to get to attract that hot guy over by the bar.

With Christmas rapidly approaching, I’ve been hitting the dancefloor in all manner of styles from  work parties with my best aggressive dancing to Pink’s “So What” to funky beats on a friend’s dining room floor.  

My feet may be hanging out for the festive season to finish, but the endorphins are having a ball.

See a snippet of dancefloor action here: