I once heard this interview with John Waters where he said he loves any song sung by girls that sound as if they had a cold. I totally agree. I’m glad to see plastic crates can be used for more than just books and record.
Ankle Injuries-Fujiya & Miyagi
Once in rare while I might think of myself as creative and then I watch videos like this and realize I have so little talent.
Milk Crisis-The Go! Team
I knew I forgot one. More happy music.
LA, CA, USA-Stereototal
One more! And finally a chance to include a clip from one of my all time favorite bands, Stereototal!
Pajaro Negro (siguiriya)-La Caita
full version here with English translation.
Every year I send out a new year’s greeting to my friends and family and this year I included a Solea letra (lyrics) with the greeting. Solea is a type of Flamenco song usually dealing with the anguish of heartbreak and loss.
Though I tear off
the hands of my watch
time will not stop
Agujas de me reloj
que yo las iba arrancando
y el tiempo no se paró.
Flamenco letras can be anything from heartbreaking to humorous to coquettish as in this favorite letra of mine:
Tu tienes dos lunares
uno juntito la boca
el otro donde tu sabes
You have two beauty marks*
one near your lips
and the other – you know where
you can hear the song here: myspace.com/doslunaresla
Lunares (polka dots) are considered good luck in Gitano and other Roma cultures. Earlier this year there was an issue with a name I was using for my Flamenco projects and I was happy to re-christen this project as Dos Lunares, in honor of the song and the symbolic luck I hope it will bring me.
There, still in my bed,
in the small hollow she left,
is the pin from her hair,
and the little comb she used
to hold it there.
Todavia esta en mi cama
el hoyito que dejo,
la orquillita de su pelo,
y el peine que la peino.
I first heard this letra from the cantaor Agustin Rios Amaya from Morón de la Frontera. Most of the songs he sings were taught to him by family and friends. You could say they become a form of oral history. As he taught me different letras, he would explain the origins of the song, who he learned from and why it was meaningful. In Flamenco, cante (the song) is king and the interpretation of letras is extremely important to the art form. The above letra included a very touching story that went along with it.
While many letras are traditional they are often improvised as a way of inspiring the musicians and dancers around them or sometimes to remark on the situation at hand. One cantaor who I very much enjoy, El Capullo de Jerez claims this letra was improvised on the spot and was so popular he incorporated it into a whole song.
Porque la vida es una rutina
apágame la luz
y enciéndeme la luz…
Because life is a routine
turn off the light
turn on the light
The Pajaro Negro video is from the movie Latcho Drom and dedicated to my friend El Chavo! as it is one of his favorites. My new year’s wish is for someone to release two of my favorite Gypsy related films on DVD: Latcho Drom and Angelo My Love.
Best wishes for a super New Year!
*Lunares can be translated as moons, polka dots or beauty marks.
Another enjoyable fun song for the hell of it. Maybe joy will eventually return and we’ll leave behind the sad decade of misery known as the 00s? The aughts? Has it been decided? Anyways, I’ve been enjoying this catchy falsetto tune and I love that it satisfies my karaoke tendencies. This down-tempo version is also swell. This song is like candy, yum!
Hypnotic Tango-My Mine
More catchy falsetto. I think I’ve been listening to too much Italo Disco these days, please indulge me. I’m sure this trend will pass, maybe.
It’s nice to hear a band like Twisted Charm again. Fun music with a bit of a message. This new-ish song is rooted in the early 80s punk pop vein with saxophones reminiscent of X-Ray Spex (the band is a big fan of Sparks, surprise, suprise!). It’s a kinda modern day version of The Specials Too Much, Too Young. The tune fits in perfectly with my mood lately and reflects my lamentable attempts at staving off the predictability of everyday life. Advice sage says: More drunken dinner parties and intense readings of radical literature are the cure!
I’ve been doing lots of new year’s cleaning and came across a bit of audio history, the three inch CD. I think they were used primarily for singles, not sure. I still have an older CD player that has the disc holder to play these little CDs. Sadly, most newer players don’t – but I think computer disc players still come equipped with the smaller tray slot. Now if I could only find the Husker Du three inch CD I misplaced many years ago…
Wire has always been a favorite band from 12XU to Ex-Lion Tamer to Eardrum Buzz, they continue to put out fine music.
I was recently joking that I’d love to have my own radio station that played nothing but electronic music from disco to house to idm to electro clash and everything else in between. IDM, Intelligent Dance Music was a term used around the turn of the century (2000) to describe a kinda of music that was less shlocky and more refined than the techno being produced at this time. Some IDM moved into a sub genre called “glitch.” Glitch is the kinda music you play if you really want to irritate your parents. Guitar rock doesn’t work anymore cause that’s what they listen to. Glitch would drive them crazy! Anyways, Plaid is one of the better bands that emerged from the IDM scene but Boards of Canada are still my favorite. When I first heard the song Eyen, I must’ve listened to it a hundred times in a row, I was so infatuated with it. It’s nice to hear it again after all these years.
Smack My Glitch Up-Kid 606
This is a very tame and listenable glitch track by master Kid 606. Even I can’t really listen to his albums all the way through. I admit I really loved the track sampled in this song as well – I don’t care if Kylie Mynogue is a pop princess. Here’s Kid 606’s excellent glitch version of Straight Outta Compton.
My Red Hot Car-Squarepusher
Squarepusher also experimented a bit with glitch elements in this favorite track of mine. More Squarepusher beats to rattle your nerves here.
Tricky Disco-Tricky Disco
A long time ago when I was still a teenager, back after I stopped being a punk rocker (a good chunk of my friends turned into nazi skinheads) and gave up on cholos (two of my boyfriends ended up in jail), I took a job at the now defunct Robinson’s department store downtown on 5th street where I met all these super friendly gay Latino guys. They started taking me to clubs and what they called “underground parties” which were the precursors to the rave scene here in Los Angeles. These parties were usually put on by groups of British DJs and attended by a subculture art crowd. It really was an anything go type of scene and reminded me of the early experimentations of punk. The original parties were set up in abandoned downtown warehouses and you needed to go to the map location to get the directions and address. The parties usually started around midnight would go till dawn and sometimes longer. There were never any adequate bathroom facilities but the $5-$10 entrance usually came with free booze. Tracks like Tricky Disco and LFO were some of my favorite songs from this era. I corresponded with DJs in London who’d send me these awesome mix tapes (some live radio recordings from offshore illegal pirate stations out at sea) that my mom would call “alarm clock music.” It was a fun time in my life. Eventually, straight guys and normal people started discovering raves and it turned into a whole different scene with the usual crap that goes along with it. I moved on too.
Alexander Robotnick – Obsession for the disco freaks
I’m including this video for a few reasons. One, Alexander was nice enough to put the video up on my chimatli mix myspace page. But also, because he was one of the innovators of Italo Disco and it’s amazing to see him still making music. Like him, I’ve spent many hours at record shops flipping through vinyl, looking for that elusive album. It’s a nice tribute to DJs and vinyl junkies.
I’ve previously mentioned my research into my family genealogy and the history of the Southwest. Through genealogical DNA testing it was discovered that my grandfather shares a DNA sequence with those that consider themselves Cohanim, a patrilineal Jewish priestly caste believed to be descended from the biblical Aaron. When I received this news, I was floored! As strange as it seemed to me at the time, Mexicans with Sephardic Jewish heritage are not as uncommon as I might have believed, especially in the Southwest. Around the time Columbus bumped into the New World (which was really the “One World” to a good chunk of my ancestors), Spain decided to kick out all the non-Christians from it’s kingdoms. That meant that communities of Moors and Jews who had lived together for centuries were all of a sudden forced to uproot themselves or convert to Christianity.
The diaspora of Muslims and Jews spread across Europe and North Africa. The conversion to Christianity wasn’t always a safe bet either, these conversos as they were known were often persecuted and hounded. Some were spied on and once caught practicing their old religion were brutally punished. Then the Inquisition started and it was bad news for conversos. Large number of Jews fled to Portugal where they were tolerated for the most part – the skills they brought with them were valuable and needed. Eventually, the King of Portugal with pressure from Spain decided to kick the Sephardic Jews out of his country too.
It is believed some Andalusian Jews and Moors mixed in with the recently arrived communities of Gypsies/Roma. There is little hard evidence (that I’ve found) to back up this theory but a look at the faces of modern Calós (Gypsies of Spain) is evidence of the blended heritage of this ethnic group.
The New World seemed like the most practical place to flee from the growing persecution of the Inquisition. According to official documents, a great number of conversos and other Portuguese and Spanish of sketchy heritage fled to New Spain (almost all of North America was considered New Spain at the time) . One of the most famous of these conversos was the founder of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, Luis de Carvajal y Cuevas and his nephew Luis de Carvajal (El Mozo). Unlike other conversos who practiced their religion covertly, El Mozo openly declared himself Judizante (Jewish) and was taken in by the long arm of the Inquisition as it expanded it’s reach across the Atlantic. The Carvajal family are most remembered because they were actually burned at the stake in 1596 for the crime of practicing Judaism. Due to the increased scrutiny converso and crypto-Jewish families received in Mexico City and other populated places, there was a push to move to the outer reaches of the New Spanish territory. The book To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico is an academic study researching the crypto-Jewish heritage of New Mexico’s founders. Most of the evidence for this theory is circumstantial, people are determined to have crypto-Jewish heritage based on such factors as having Portuguese ancestors or palling around with known New Christians/conversos. References to lifestyle habits are scrutinized and studied and documented in order to determine New Christian and hence Jewish ancestry such as bathing on Friday and relaxing or hiding out on Saturdays (the Sabbath).
One may ask, how prevalent was this Sephardic heritage in the history of Mexico and the Southwest? The answer leads to a number of very interesting theories and investigations…
Wait a minute! [cue: needle scratching record]
Two posts about books?! What happened to the cheesy music you’ve come to love this blog for? How could I disappoint all of my five, uh four readers? I know what will placate you – this fabulous video by the Goombay Dance Band, a German knock-off of Boney M (they were German too) complete with the social commentary lyrics and disco dance beat. How can I not love a song I can dance to and be proud to sing along with? Check out these lyrics: They came 500 years ago
They stole the gold of Mexico
Killed the people one by one
Only talking with their guns
Brave men locked on iron chains
All young mothers sold as slaves
Babies crying through the night
Will they ever see a light
Golden dreams of Eldorado
All have drowned in seas of pain and blood
Golden dreams of Eldorado
May come true but only in your heart
Perhaps you’re thinking along the lines of this Youtube comment left on the El Dorado video: “esta mierda te gusta?”
Well, there’s also a Czech version which interpreted the song as old country tune, complete with banjo, slide guitar and sung by an old professor (by the looks of it.) Waldemar Matuška – Eldorádo
Whoa, I just realized that the “they” in the song, refers to the audience of Spanish people he’s singing too!
My second field of interest this year was Ayahuasca. My interest was piqued after reading an interview with ethnobotanist Wade Davis (famous for his studies of Haitian zombies and the resulting book, The Serpent and the Rainbow) and his research into native medicinal and healing plants. Ayahuasca is the generic name for a group of vines that grows wild in the Amazon and when ingested in a specially made tea concoction, induces hours long psychedelic/psychotropic visions. The drink is traditionally taken in a communal ceremony led by Amazonian shaman who oversee and guide the users with special rituals including chants, music and verbal guidance. I had a friend who tried it in South America and her experiences seemed really fascinating. Apparently, it’s like going through three years of psycho-therapy in one long overnight session. I read three or four titles on the subject but I most enjoyed the Ayahuasca Reader : Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine by Luis Eduardo Luna (Editor), Steven F. White (Editor), Steven F. White (Author), Luis Eduardo Luna (Author). It’s a collection of first hand experiences, essays and studies on the plant. The best bits are the descriptions of the Ayahuasca trips, they sound amazing – lots of brilliant colors and shapes, terrifying animals, sparkles and sometimes the vine itself speaks to them!
The image on the cover of the book is a visual interpretation of an Ayahuasca “journey.” I can’t remember but it might’ve even been drawn while under the influence of the vine. It’s very similar to Huichol art which is inspired by the ritual use of peyote.
Last year’s ode to 2007 was full of fun, music and good times – this year my 2008 highlights all have to do with text: books and the internet. It’s all I’ve had time for this year. (Full-time work has been the bane of my 2008 existence, crimping my lady of leisure lifestyle and forcing me into the rigid schedule of the rat race. I would have probably adapted to this new lifestyle if I’d had more experience with the 40 hour workweek but I’m happy to say this was my first year enduring this drudgery. Why did the Haymarket Martyrs settle on 40 hours a week? Couldn’t we have taken it down to 25? There’s a project for future anarchists!) Enough of my whining, on to books!
Los Angeles History
I started the year brushing up on Los Angeles history. Of the six or so titles I read and perused, my favorite was Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles edited by William Deverell and Greg Hise.
“Since ancient times, great cities have been shaped by their environments. But cities have also exacted their price. In these astute and very necessary essays, leading experts who are also good writers tackle important questions regarding the origins, rise, present circumstances and future sustainability of the second largest metropolitan region in the nation. No one can understand the City of Angels and its attendant communities without reference to this pioneering book.”
—Kevin Starr, University Professor and Professor of History, University of Southern California, Author, Americans and the California Dream series
My favorite chapter was The Los Angeles Prarie by Paula M Schiffman. Did you know that much of Los Angeles was difficult to traverse owing to the thousands of squirrels and ground animals that honeycombed the ground with holes and nests? Grizzlies also contributed to soil disturbances by clawing up great mounds of earth as they searched for buried food: mice, grubs, roots etc. Bears played a pivotal role in the early ecology of Los Angeles, so much so that without them, it’s impossible to recreate a pre-European Los Angeles environment. As for the Tongva, they practiced what’s been termed as “paradise by design” – a careful manipulation of plant and animal life that suited their needs while sustaining the reproduction and balance of life around them. It was all pretty good until the Europeans came and enslaved the Tongva, wiped out the grizzlies and paved the river. Thanks, guys!
Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past by William Deverell is another Los Angeles history book worth mentioning. There are so many good passages I can include here but this one best sums up the purpose of this book:
Los Angeles matured, at least in part, by covering up places, people, and histories that those in power found unsettling. Los Angeles became a self-conscious “City of the Future” by whitewashing an adobe past, even an adobe present and adobe future. That whitewashing was imperfectly, even crudely, accomplished – adobe yet showed through – but it was nonetheless a way by which White Angelenos created distance (cultural and personal) between themselves and the Mexican past and the Mexican people in their midst.
Here’s a bit more:
Los Angeles is not so much a city that got what it wished for. It is a city that wished for what it worked diligently to invent. And that inventing in part entailed what this book is about, the whitewashing of other stories, other cultures, and other people’s memories on the landscape.
It’s this whitewashing and reinventing of Los Angeles by those who chose knowingly or unknowingly, to erase the history of Los Angeles’ Mexican and ethnic past, that led to the creation of a new project this year: LA Eastside.