Music for coffins? The heavenly sounds of Mexico’s Caifanes

Recently a couple of songs by Mexican band Caifanes have popped up on my Shazam app. They are famous in their own country and wider Latin America, but as with many trailblazing bands, were initially pooh-poohed by the conservative music establishment when they first approached record companies in the late 1980s. Here’s an amusing extract from their biography on Wikipedia:

With demo in hand Caifanes approached CBS Mexico. The musical director at the time shunned them for dark new wave attire and said, “You look like fags.” At the time, Caifanes’ sound and look was influenced by British post-punk groups such as The Cure and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They dressed in black suits and sported frizzly hair and makeup. Upon hearing the demo of “Será Por Eso” (English: “That’s Why”), the CBS executive said, “At CBS, our business is to sell records, not coffins.”

I wonder what that executive thinks now when sees something like this…

Here’s a live version of one of the songs I Shazammed, Viento (Wind) . The lyrics are here.

Cumbia is a type of music that originated in Colombia. It’s catchy, infectious, happy and makes you want to dance in a wiggle-your-hips-kind-of way (particularly when you are imbibing at parties and festivals). Their cover of La Negra Tomasa was a huge hit.

Their first ever single, Mátenme Porque Me Muero (Kill Me Because I’m Dying), is typically 1980s but has stood the test of time. I like the keyboard intro and the flourish at the finish.

Here’s another one that Caifanes fans recommend, Debajo de tu piel (Under your skin).

Finally, I heard this one in a car one day after a long Sunday drive to a beach followed by a couple of beers at sundown. It was a pleasantly mellow way to see out the weekend.


Three of the best from La Oreja de Van Gogh

La Oreja de Van Gogh are a Spanish band who have been around for two decades and have been highly successful in their home land and in South America. I have skimmed through some of their music while on flights – I always browse the Romance language film and music selections on a plane whenever they are available – but have never really studied La Oreja much at home. Their name in English would be Van Gogh’s ear.

This weekend I heard a friend doing karaoke to Rosas (a No.1 hit in Spain and many South American countries in 2003). So, out of curiosity, I had to look up to see what was it supposed to have sounded like. Here is a live performance of the song, featuring the current lead singer, Leire Martínez.

If you want to sing along yourself, you will need the “letras”. Here they are!

The original lead singer was Amaia Montero, who had quite a different style. Here she is in another chartbuster, Puedes Contar Comigo (You Can Count On Me), also from 2003.

Let’s move on a few years to 2013 when the single,  El Primer Día Del Resto De Mi Vida (“The first day of the rest of my life“) was released. It’s a cheerful one.

I hope you liked this selection. They are definitely a band worth investigating if you want to improve your Spanish.

The Andes, Iguazu and La Ley: what more could you want?

Recently I had the chance to travel to South America – mostly to Brazil, so that was great for my Portuguese, and to a lesser extent in the Spanish-speaking part: Chile and Argentina, to take in the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls (Iguaçu in Portuguese), which, let me tell you, are spectacular. Below are a couple of pics I took with my iPhone, which got a soaking during the day.



Iguazu Falls … multi-layered and magnificent . Photo: Bernard O’Shea

I was also very lucky to have a window seat while flying over the Andes mountains at sunset (heading east from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro). At the top of this post, and below, are two of the photos I took on that memorable journey.



While I was in Chile I was excited to find out that my favourite Chilean band – in fact, my favourite Spanish-singer artists in the whole wide mundo – La Ley, had re-formed and brought out a new album this year, called Adaptación, their first since 2003.

Here’s my favourite track from it.

There are 12 songs on the album, two of which are in English. The opening track is also appealing. Here’s a studio clip of it.

I hope you enjoyed this visual and aural foray into South America.

So, who’s your favourite Guatemalan singer? Maybe Gaby?

Guatemala has been in the news recently, as an emboldened judiciary and plain old people power (there is a lot to be said for people agitating for reform) tackle corruption (details here). I must admit I know little about the country although I do hoard travel brochures on South and Central American and I have admired its Mayan ruins – which probably get overshadowed by the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru. Still, I came across someone from Guatemala recently, and asked him for some Guatemalan musical recommendations. He nominated two singers Gaby Moreno and Ricard Arjona.*

Suggestion number one

Gaby Moreno. Listening to her now, I can see why. She’s young – her Wikipedia entry is here and her own website is here – but she could well have been from an earlier era. Here’s a very well known song Quizás, Quizás,Quizás (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps), which has been done by the likes of Nat King Cole in Spanish and also by a number of artists in an English version. I’m sure you will recognise the tune.

You can see a translation of the lyrics here.

So, let’s have a look at her performing on a video … as you can see, she has a Gatsby look about her.

Suggestion number two

Ricardo Arjona. Sou only have to look at his Wikipedia entry and his discography to realise he is a major star on the Latin music scene. On YouTube you can find compilations of his greatest hits (“exitos”) and they are well worth playing in the background when you have an hour or two to spare at home.

One of his more recent hits, though, features Gaby Moreno, and you will see some Mayan ruins in this clip too (try as I might, I can’t get his videoclips to display like hers above).

Here are some of his other more recent chart-toppers.

 * Later my Guatemalan friend admitted he didn’t like these two singers so much,  preferring instead English electronic music. I think it’s sad when people dismiss their own culture and think a foreign culture is much more hip, but I’ve also been through that phase as a youngster in Africa, so can understand. Sometimes people have to get away from their roots as part of the growing up process, and then later go back and rediscover their cultural heritage – often with a lot more appreciation.

Three of the best from quirky Argentinian band Tan Biónico

If you like synth and guitar-driven pop-rock along the lines of US band The Killers, with the occasional bit of camp disco thrown in (à la the English hits of Romanian band Akcent) then Argentina’s Tan Biónica might be worth investigating (tan means “so”). Very popular on their home territory, they make colourful theatrical videos, and their latest single, Hola Mi Vida, (Hello My Life) is doing well.

That song is taken from their new album Hola Mundo (Hello World). Their last release, Destinología, from 2013, spawned two No. 1 singles – Ciudad Mágica and La Melodía de Dios – but I prefer these tracks from 2011 and 2013 instead.

If you want to know more about Tan Biónica, their Spanish entry on Wikipedia is here – the English entry (the link in the first paragraph of this post) is very basic.

Two Sorayas and a Tormenta in a mix of Spanish music old and new

It’s holiday time! And with it comes the chance to update my music playlists. Having recently covered what’s hot on the Portuguese and Brazilian music scene, this time I’ll look at the Spanish-singing world. The official Spanish sales chart, which has a real eyesore of a website, shows how – Enrique Iglesias apart – the Spanish chart is dominated by songs in English, while this Spanish Top 20 airplay chart rather bizarrely had more Portuguese offerings on it (two songs each by D.A.M.A and Anselmo Ralph, one by Badoxa) than Spanish ones, but this Top 50 chart had a wider representation of Spanish artists and some good stuff too.

This one is a new entry on it. I think it will do well, it grows on you. It’s got a Cocteau Twins-type guitar feel in the chorus. And two sultry singers and a lot of wet shirts in the video. It’s former Eurovision contestant Sonraya feat Vega and El Huracán (The Hurricane).

And here you can see what goes into the making of a music video nowadays…

Incidentally, there was a very successful Colombian singer also named Soraya, who unfortunately died of breast cancer in 2006 at the age of 37. Here is a lovely song by her, De Repente (Suddenly).

Back to the present, another new entry on that Top 50 chart is Todo Lo Que Tengo (All That I Have) by a youthful (mid-20s)  Xuso Jones, who apparently came to attention as an internet sensation. Judging by this, he is one to follow as he gains more mainstream recognition.

Now, onto a couple of classic hits that I tagged with my Shazam app recently while listening to a Spanish golden oldies radio station…

This one goes back to the 1970s, and the singer Nino Bravo has an impressive voice – he sounds like a Spanish Tom Jones or Tony Christie. Unfortunately he also died too young – in a car crash aged just 28. Un beso y una flor (A Kiss and A Flower), was very popular in the Latin world at the time and was released just before he died.

Now onto a prolific Argentinian singer, Tormenta (real name Liliana Esther Maturano) who is 62 now. This is very early 70s too… it’s Adiós Chico de Mi Barrio (Goodbye, Guy From My Neighbourhood) … gosh, this reminds me of so many cheesy pop songs in my teens!


Hot Romance language hits from Black M, Calogero, Anitta, Arisa, Lidia Buble and more

Every now and then I have to catch up with what’s happening on the music scene in my five Romance languages. Here’s what’s hot at the moment – excluding Enrique Iglesias’s Bailando in its Spanish and Portuguese versions, which was covered in the previous main post.

In French

This video clip – a spoof on Westerns – is entertainment in itself (for example, when the tense gunslinging scene in the saloon is interrupted by a mobile phone call from “maman” or “mother”). It’s Black M‘s follow-up to his highly successful chart-topper Sur Ma Route. This time he gets some help from Dr Beriz.

Also doing well is Calogero, whose latest album Les Feux D’Artifice (in English, Fireworks) made No. 1 recently in France and in Belgium (his fourth album to do so). Un Jour Au Mauvais Endroit (which could be translated as A Day in a Bad Place, or One Day in the Wrong Place) is the single from it, and it sounds in parts a bit like Madonna doing ABBA and – near the end where people start chanting “plus jamais seul” (never again alone) – Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. It made the top 10 in both France and Belgium.

In Romanian

Lidia Buble‘s Noi Simtim La Fel (We Feel The Same) shot up to the top of the Romanian airplay chart, got knocked off by Enrique Iglesias’s Bailando) then climbed back up to No. 1 again. Currently it’s No. 6 in its 22nd week in the chart. She has a powerful voice. This track also features Adrian Sina, who is one of the biggest figures (singer, composer, DJ, producer) in Romanian music today.

The chorus of the song is good for those learning how Romanian verbs ending in i such as a iubi (to love) are conjugated in the first person plural present tense noi gândim la fel (we think the same), simţim la fel (feel the same), iubim la fel (love the same)…

I also like this effort, Sarutari Criminale (Criminal Kisses) by Maxim, which made the top 10. I’ve chosen this clip with the lyrics, since they are a boy band and some of the other videos to with it are a bit juvenile. Here you will see that some verbs ending in i are conjugated with an esc ending in the first person singular: îndrăznesc = I dare; trăiesc = I live; amintesc = i remember. However, there are many conjugations in Romanian and this barely scratches the surface.

 In Spanish

On the Spanish music chart, Enrique Iglesias’s Bailando has just been bumped from the top spot by the earnest Pablo Alborán with a song of a quite different nature, Por Fin (At Last).

In Portuguese

The European Portuguese version of Bailando which features Mickael Carreira, is still top of the pops in Portugal, but in Brazil the music scene is currently dominated by Anitta, who has two hits in the top 10, Cobertor, which this blog has covered before, and the No. 1, Na Batida (The Beat).

In Italian

Bailando is also the No. 1 currently in Italy, according to my source, and the Italian Top 20 chart is dominated by English titles. Here is the only Italian entry, Fragili (which of course means Fragile) from a group called Club Dogo featuring Arisa.

Arisa won the annual Sanremo music festival this year with Controvento (Upwind)

Hear Enrique Iglesias’s Bailando in the Spanish, Portuguese and Brazilian versions

All credit to Enrique Iglesias and his Cuban collaborators Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, whose song Bailando (Dancing) has charted pretty much all over the world and in the process has injected some Spanish in the English-speaking music market – you can read about the song’s impressive achievements here. More recently an English version has come out with Sean Paul contributing some vocals, but let’s  look at the Spanish release first.

There are two Portuguese versions too, or more accurately Enrique singing in Spanish alongside a collaborator singing in Portuguese. The version aimed at the Brazilian market features one of the hottest young Brazilian singers of the moment, Luan Santana.

The European Portuguese version features Mickael Carreira who, like Enrique, is a son of a famous singer, Tony Carreira, and who has a singing brother, David Carreira. (Enrique’s father, in case you didn’t know, is Julio Iglesias).

What’s your favourite? Mine is the one with Mickael Carreira in it. 😀


Here’s your romance language weekend soundtrack

Along with Stromae, Indila has carrying the flag for the French language on the world music charts. Her debut album, Mini World, has done very well in places such as Poland, as well as closer to home in France, Belgium and Switzerland. The first single from that album, Dernière Danse (Last Dance), which My Five Romances featured on the post French chansons from the fairer sex, also did well further east, reaching No.1 on the charts in Greece, Turkey, Israel, for example.

Here’s another single from that album, S.O.S., which has also been getting a lot of airplay, deservedly so.

Also luscious in feel is this effort from Mellina featuring Vescan – the latter providing what is almost obligatory in modern music nowadays; a rap interlude, but his bit is overlaid in parts with keyboard flourishes that flutter around lightly like butterflies on a summer’s day.

Incidentally, poză in Romanian means a picture or a pose, not to be confused with pauză, which means pause.

Sticking with Romanian, here’s Tu (Inima si Sufletul), a single from Ruby, whom I’ve featured before along with Yogi and Shift on the post Get this îngheţată thing licked. This reminds me in parts of Kirsty MacColl.

Tu, of course, means you in the singular, inimă means heart and suflet means soul (-ul is suffix for the definite article the, hence sufletul = the soul).

Now for some Portuguese. David Carreira is the son of one of Portugal’s most popular singers Tony Carreira. In this song he tells his lover that even in 20 years’ time, if they are separated and in the arms of another, there will (haverá) always (sempre) be a song (uma musica) to remind him of her. And isn’t that what songs, do – remind us of phases of our lives?

David was born in France, and if you have been following this blog you would know that Tony is comfortable speaking and singing in both French and Portuguese. It seems David is too. Here is one of his French hits.

To finish on a happy, upbeat note, with a bit of Spanish, here are two Puerto Rican singers who go by the name of Wisin & Yandel.

Argentine rock legend Gustavo Cerati dies after four years in a coma

While English language media outlets have been mourning the death of Joan Rivers, in Latin America it has been the passing of Gustavo Cerati that has been capturing the headlines. The BBC’s Spanish language website, for example, has got news items, reaction pieces, colour pieces, an analysis of the influence of his band Soda Stereo on Latin American rock, and an in-depth look at his 10 most memorable songs (canciones inolvidables).

I have already covered a couple of his and Soda Stereo’s work in the post Have a passionate Pascua with these smooth songs in Spanish. Here are some more.

And lastly one should say Adios