I blame Shakira

The Héroes del Silencio album on my iPod has getting some heavy airplay in my home the past two weeks. During a mental health break at work I was snooping around on Amazon.com, trying to find some music to help alleviate the onset of my current state of ennui when I saw their new (to me) CD. My iPod and perhaps my own musical tastes seem stuck in the 90’s, when I first discovered the genre of music that I now can’t live without: rock en Español.

Growing up, the only approved music was either Southern Gospel music groups that consisted of suited-up white males or select classical pieces. Bach was loved, but Tchaikovsky was hated – Mom had read somewhere that he was gay, so no Nutcracker suite for me. I had to sneak in the album into my collection like most kids sneak in pot. The music from Mom’s homeland, Colombia – vallenato, cumbia and salsa, were also off-limits. I was a sophomore in college before being exposed to my musical heritage.

Slowly I was able to incorporate movie soundtracks in, claiming them as “modern classical music” and Christian contemporary music (CCM) as a holy alternative to the Nirvana that I really wanted to listen to. The soundtracks were met without any argument, but you could see Mom twitching every time she heard me listening to Michael W. Smith. In her mind it was only a matter of time before I  punked out and started crowd-surfing. Slippery slopes, you know?

For a while the musical substitutes worked. I could tell the production differences between CCM and the real rock music I heard as Rush Limbaugh’s bumper music. I took what I could get and it worked, until my freshman year at college.

Pensacola Christian College had a stricter music policy than Mom. Choral ensemble music was the sole approved music. My beloved “Last of the Mohicans” soundtrack and various classical CDs were confiscated and held until the end of the term. It was my own fault for submitting the music for “review” and thinking that they would pass. I soon learned to keep my CDs in a locked box since the room inspectors couldn’t open that.  After a year of listening to “Just a Closer Walk to Thee” in four-part harmony, I was ready for the musical revolution that was about to begin

After transferring to the oh-so-liberal LU  and aligning myself with the Spanish clubs on campus, I began to hear not only salsa and cumbia, but actual rock songs in Spanish.

Maná, was the first rocker group I heard. I thought they sounded slightly drunk, but drunken rock beat somber, spirit-filled music any day. Then the fateful day came when a fellow Colombian (the Unnamed One to be exact) gave me a copy of Donde Están Los Ladrones? by Shakira.  My world was changed.

Something in the music reached out and grabbed me. I don’t know if it was the familiar accent in Shakira’s voice, the exotic music arrangements, the lyrics whose meaning were beyond my intermediate Spanish knowledge and therefore were intriguing, but I was hooked. My CCM collection slowly moved from the top of the dresser to a plastic bin under my bed.  I started borrowing all the Spanish rock CDs I could, making cassette tapes before investing in a CD burner.

Once I moved to DC, I found a bar that played Spanish rock and expanded my music beyond that of the Colombian influences of Shakira, Juanes, Los Aterciopelados and Carlos Vives. Soon Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Spain were all fighting for equal billing in my CD player and that was just the rock music. The lyrics still mystified, but sound kept drawing me in. The majority of these musicians come from countries that were either under dictatorships, have recently emerged from such or, in Colombia’s case, the country is in a lot of pain and this raw emotion is evident on every track.

This makes the music a little more valuable to me: these artists had to work hard to get their music out, in some cases fighting for survival. That’s not something that can easily be found with American rock music.

The newer Spanish rock isn’t the same as the rock of the 90’s. Reggaeton is now the musical powerhouse in the Latin world, with new bands trying to capitalize on the success that Shakira and Juanes have in more mainstream areas. Perhaps I am in a musical bubble and lacking the proper guide to help me.

Now I can only find “my” music in my home. The bar has long since changed hands, the Spanish friends are scattered around the world and local Spanish radio station plays mostly reggaeton. The Sunday morning “Gira de Rock” show is long gone. Even Shakira’s music has changed. ( you really don’t want me to get started on that or her blond hair)

So I hit replay on my CD player and revel in the sensual sounds of Opio by Héroes del Silencio. I may be stuck, but at least it sounds good here.  And goddamn, Enrique Bunbury looks good in leather pants.

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~ by pithycomments on September 24, 2009.

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