Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On the 6th day of Christmas ... a video by Calle 13, a Puerto Rican group experiencing a rush of popularity lately. Always late to the latest music scene, I first read about them in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone (which my mom thoughtfully brought to Mexico for me :)), where sometime Slate critic Jody Rosen gave their Los de Atras Vienen Conmigo (translation: Those Behind Are Coming With Me) album 4 stars.

So I went and downloaded the album. How did I like it? It used to be that when people asked me what kind of music I liked, I said "Anything but country." But then I discovered Johnny Cash, and then Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings (that's right, the Highwaymen) and now I've rather warmed up to everyone from Jenny Lewis to the Dixie Chicks.

Fortunately, a new musical genre rose up to take the place of country in my hated music category: Reggaeton. The first time I heard a reggaeton song - probably "Gasolina," the massive hit from reggaeton star Daddy Yankee - I thought, hey that's cool, a song on MTV in Spanish! But then I heard another reggaeton song, and then another, and then another, and they all sounded exactly the same. The same beat. The exact same beat. And when your Mexico City bus driver is blasting this mind-numbingly-repetitive reggaeton on his bus stereo, it makes for a supremely annoying bus ride.

But Rolling Stone said that Calle 13 was bending the genre, so I thought I'd check them out. Calle 13's lead singer/rapper (who calls himself Residente) spends the first track on the album telling the other reggaeton-ers to go cry, and then he and Visitante, the instrumentalist, join up with ultra-cool Mexico City alt-rockers Café Tacuba to rip into this gem of a song.

For the non-Spanish-speakers out there, the basic gist of the song is: There are lots of different kinds of things and lots of different kinds of people in the world, but there is nothing like you, my love. Hay x, y, z... pero no hay nadie como tu.

One of the reasons I like this song so much - besides its irresistable flow - is that the Spanish vocabulary is so utterly simple. Everything is in the present tense, which is good, because that's really the only tense I know very well. And really, everything comes from the same verb - "hay" - which means, basically, "there is" or "there are." After "hay" there's just a bunch of nouns, lots of which I know, which makes me very happy.

Anyway, before signing off today, I should probably address this continuing song-a-day deal. The Economist's Christmas issue featured a cherubic angel on the cover with a guitar, with extended feature stories on angels and "Why We Love Music." I've been looking for some new music myself lately, and diving into Mexican music, finally, trying to immerse myself a bit more into my context.

I thought I'd tie it up with the 12 days of Christmas, because, as all of you lectionary-lovers know, this, right now, is really the Christmas season, Christmastide, this time between December 25th and January 6th. And in Mexico it's even more so, though it's a little different, too: Rather than Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, the Mexican tradition goes more like Guadalupe-Navidad-Reyes, sometimes known as the Guadalupe-Reyes season. You've got the festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12th (see earlier post), then the posadas (see earlier post), then the nochebuena (see earlier post), then Christmas (see earlier post), then Three Kings Day, the Dia de Reyes, on January 6th, concluding the season (see future post). As always, stay tuned for a full report on the Dia de Reyes.

I also haven't been writing a whole lot about what we've been up to lately, mainly because we haven't been up to much. We've been cooking - and, well, eating - lots of labor-intensive Mexican food from our new Rick Bayless cookbook.

Then we went to an uber-fancy mall on Friday and got kinda weirded out by it. We had dinner with our neighbors, who are retired Americans from Virginia who spend their winters in Guadalajara. We did a bit more exploring of the Guadalajara downtown, and went shopping in the Mercado de Libertad again, where I bought a sweet knockoff Chivas jersey and a couple of movies, including, FINALLY, Wall-E. (Wall-E was totally worth the wait, by the way - if you haven't seen it, you should. Really.) And, of course, no visit to the Guadalajaran downtown is complete without ice cream, which we enjoyed on a sunny plaza with a big fountain.

We also went to see a muy Mexicana movie, Rudo y Cursi, which stars Mexican mega-stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal (the latter of whom is becoming a worldwide star in his own right) and is directed by Carlos Cuarón, brother of Mexican mega-director Alfonso Cuarón, who made the third Harry Potter movie (our favorite of the Harry Potter movies so far) and most recently Children of Men. We decided that the movie's plot loosely followed that of Talladega Nights, with the main characters making it big in the world of Mexican soccer rather than NASCAR (though with an obviously more Mexican tone - which, frankly, means a more tragic tone) complete with super-regional dialects. That's right, it was all in Spanish, and the language was even harder to understand than the last all-Spanish movie we went to see. Even Chris, who is becoming more fluent in Spanish every day, struggled to understand some of the heavily accented Mexican Spanish in the movie. I mainly watched the images. We still recommend Rudo y Cursi... when it comes out on DVD and you can watch it with English subtitles.

Some of the coolest parts of Rudo y Cursi, for us, were seeing the parts of Mexico City on screen where we have actually been, including a scene in the Tasqueña bus station where I stood waiting for the Cuernavaca bus every single week. It took a lot of self-restraint not to jump up out of my seat pointing, I've been there! I've been there! But I can, you know, exercise self-control. Sometimes.

No comments: