Monday, September 21, 2015

#BoTB results: El Rey (José Alfredo Jiménez vs. Maná)

This was way closer than I expected — and the winner was a surprise. Here's the final tally, without my vote:

José Alfredo Jiménez (8)
Robin (& Robin's dad)

Maná (6)

I was fairly certain Maná would win this. Let's face it, the folk music of Mexico is an acquired taste, and a rock/modern vibe can make it more palatable to the "undomesticated" ear. Maná has long been on my yuck list, pretty much for the reasons Stephen mentioned: lack of originality, recycling of bigger and better music, an overly — and overtly — commercial feel to their work, but I make an effort to give credit where credit is due: as I mentioned in a few replies, I do recognize Maná's achievement in bringing a traditional song (originally appealing only to a pretty specific, and thus limited, demographic) to a broader audience. I'm even grateful for it. In many countries, Mexico would still be under the stereotype of big hats and tacos in a basket if it weren't for the international reach Maná has achieved. (Thanks to them it's big hats and tacos in a basket BUT listening to Maná :D )

But I'm beyond pleased by the result. My dislike of Maná has finally, internationally and objectively, if a tad narrowly, been validated :D Thank you for that, guys. And, from the perspective of the BATTLE, I'm really glad it was close. Again, kudos to Maná for winning over so many. And thanks to all who voted, as well, for giving the contenders and their foreign-language singing a listen :)

See you on the 1st!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#BoTB September 15: VIVA MEXICO!

Today is Mexico's 205th birthday. On the night of September 15th, 1810, a priest by the name of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called the townspeople of Dolores to arms — and thus began the war for independence from Spain (perhaps not what the Catholic priest intended, but that's a bone for another post).

Traditionally, on the night of Sept. 15th, the president of Mexico reenacts the Grito de Dolores (the "cry of Dolores", aka Mr. Hidalgo's rebel yell) from the presidential balcony in Mexico City. Traditionally, today is Mexico's biggest celebration (Cinco de Mayo, you might be surprised to know, is only a bank holiday for us Mexicans). Traditionally, there's all-you-can-eat mole, all-you-can-listen-to Mariachi; fireworks all night, dancing the Mexican zapateado, and lots and lots of tequila and mezcal (preferrably before the zapateado, seeing as quantity is directly proportional to improvement in dancing style).

Case in point: these good people have consumed a substantial amount of tequila.
Look at those smiles.

This year, however, celebrations will be muted.

September 15th is the day when us Mexicans do our best to remind ourselves the country is more than the politicians and drug lords that run the country; more than the corruption that rules every aspect of life; that we come from a tradition so rich in culture and diversity that it's produced some of the world's most renowned art — painting, sculpture, cinema, weaving, architecture, ceramics, gastronomy... and, of course, music.

This year, Mexico has more to mourn than to celebrate. Perhaps that is a good thing; perhaps, finally, it is the hour for reckoning.  Corruption is rampant in Mexico; more so than ever before. Impunity at all levels is the rule of law. The law itself has become an object of plutocracy... a laughingstock, really. This year it's hard to remember the good stuff. But... how can we save Mexico unless we keep in mind what it is we're saving?

In that spirit, my song for the Battle of the Bands today is a classic of Mexican popular music, one of Mexico's unofficial anthems: El Rey. This is the cantina song par excellence. Every Mexican knows the words (lyrics at the end of the post, along with translation); as a matter of fact, if you don't know the words, you're not Mexican.

First up: the original version by singer/songwriter José Alfredo Jiménez:

The would-be contender is Mexican band Maná, who's single-handedly spread (their version of) Mexican culture way farther, and with way better effectiveness, than the best Mexican diplomats.

I'm really curious to see how the voting turns out for this one, since this face-off is a matter of contention for most Mexicans. I'm hoping that, being that most of this blog's readers are not Mexican, we might get an objective assessment for a change :)

Other awesome battles being fought at the links below — visit them and vote, and join the BoTB fun!

Thanks so much for reading, listening, and voting! I'll post the results next Monday 21st. In the meantime, have an awesome week — and VIVA MEXICO!

El Rey lyrics (English in italics):

Yo sé bien que estoy afuera 
I know only too well I'm out
Pero el día que yo me muera
But the day that I die
Sé que tendrás que llorar
I know you're going to cry
(Llorar y llorar...)
(Cry and cry...)
Dirás que no me quisiste
You'll say you didn't love me
Pero vas a estar muy triste
But you're going to be devastated
Y así te vas a quedar
And that's how you're going to stay

Con dinero y sin dinero
With money or without
Hago siempre lo que quiero
I do always as I please
Y mi palabra es la ley!
And my word is law
No tengo trono ni reina
I have no throne or queen
Ni nadie que me comprenda
Or anyone that understands me
Pero sigo siendo el rey
But I'm still the king

Una piedra en el camino
A stone on the path
Me enseñó que mi destino
Taught me that my destiny
Era rodar y rodar
Is to roll and roll
(Rodar y rodar...)
(Roll and roll)
Después me dijo un arriero
Later a laborer told me
Que no hay que llegar primero
That it's not about arriving first
Pero hay que saber llegar
But about knowing how to arrive

Con dinero y sin dinero
With money or without
Hago siempre lo que quiero
I do always as I please
Y mi palabra es la ley!
And my word is law
No tengo trono ni reina
I have no throne or queen
Ni nadie que me comprenda
Or anyone that understands me
Pero sigo siendo el rey
But I'm still the king
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