Pages

Sunday, July 3, 2016

#BoTB — Raining Coffee

I'm late to the party, I know... I apologize. I was on a deadline to deliver a short story, and I finally managed to send it in just a little while ago—two days late... ooops. So, with the "job" taken care of, let's hear some music!

This is one of those alternative Battles that sometimes find their way in. The song is Ojalá Que Llueva Café, by Juan Luis Guerra (1989), and we're pitting that original against a cover by an off-the-beaten-path band from Mexico called Café Tacuba (officially spelled Tacvba, the old Castilian way).


Juan Luis Guerra is a household name in Latin America, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if some in this blog's mostly non-Latin audience have heard of him, maybe even know a few of his songs. He's an extraordinary musician, both composer and songwriter (many would say poet) who graduated from the Berklee College of Music (Massachusetts), and although he's famous for his merengue and bachata songs, he makes a point of infusing everything he produces with Conservatory-level quality.

Café Tacuba might not be quite as big as Mr. Guerra, and certainly not as prolific (they work for years on any new album), but they've also transcended borders; their latest release, in 2012, topped the Latin charts. They've become known not just for the high quality of their music but for its diversity; no two of their albums ever sound the same—unlike, for instance, Maná, who have preferred to cultivate image rather than artistic quality. (Yeah. Not a fan.)

As for the song, Ojalá Que Llueva Café (literally, 'I wish coffee would rain down') makes a powerful—if subtle (and, some might argue, using an upbeat melody as disguise)—political and social statement on poverty in the third world. This isn't a 'manna from heaven' chant of transferring responsibility to a higher power; it is a cry of desperation, all the more poignant because of the cheery beat, in the face of the impossibility of making a living, not even decent but simply enough, outside the cities of Latin America.

Ojalá que llueva café en el campo
(I wish coffee would rain down in the country...)

But why? Why do we hope for coffee from the sky?

Pa' que la realidad no se sufra tanto
(So that reality doesn't hurt so much...)


First up: Señor Guerra's original.




The contenders have a completely different take on this. Where Guerra's cumbia is quintessentially Caribbean, Café Tacuba, true to their style, infused it with absolute Mexicanity. Cumbia has become fandango—which you'll probably recognize from that Los Lobos version of La Bamba. (Fandango, sometimes called Son Jarocho, is a musical form—composition, lyrics, dance—typical of the Mexican state of Veracruz.) Unfortunately there's no studio recording of this, so I hope the audio quality won't put you off too much.




There it is, folks. What do you think? Which version had you dancing? Which version felt like something you might want to listen to more than once? What do you think about songs with serious content and 'happy' beats? Is it a detriment to the message, or does it help bring it home?

I'll be back on Friday to tally the votes, add mine (which I often forget to do... sorry about that), and post the results. Looking forward to how this one plays out!

In the meantime, hop on over to the other #BoTB participants when you get a chance; 'tis the week for spectacular music!


18 comments:

  1. So nice to see you here and I am always wondering what you will pick. I love folk style music and so I love both entries. At first I thought I would go with the first one but then, around the 2:10 mark this man started playing this guitar and with such perfection and beauty that Cafe Tacvba has it in spades for me. I loved this man's performance with the guita, singing and the other instrument that now escapes my head( I blame my memory loss of menopause and I stick to that). Cafe Tacvba gets my vote!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Birgit, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed this Battle... Yeah, that guitar in the Tacuba version gives me chills every time.

      Thank you for your kind, kind words, and for the vote. Café Tacuba it is!

      Delete
  2. I'm not familiar with Guerra, but I probably know some of his songs. Cafe Tacuba on the other hand is one of my favorite bands. My wife and I went to see them at a dinner theater concert facility in Anaheim back in 1999 when they were promoting their Reves/Yo Soy album--a truly great album. I have several of their albums in my collection.

    The Guerra version is nice, but I didn't even have to listen to the Cafe Tacuba version to know that it would be my preference. In fact I have the CD/DVD set where this clip comes from. It's a fantastic album and the concert is so much fun to watch. These guys are true artistas, talented and multi-faceted.

    My vote is a big definite for Cafe Tacuba. In fact I have an upcoming someday battle that features one of their hits that was a cover. You can probably guess what that song is.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, wow... Lee, you've blown me away. My bet was that you, especially, would know Guerra—but not Café Tacuba. Ha! The world just tilted under my feet :D I'm thrilled, though, that you don't just know them but love them; they truly are a great, great band, and I should've known you'd be a fan.

      Another vote for Café Tacuba! Thank you, Lee :)

      Delete
  3. Café Tacuba takes my vote. A local restaurant I visit, plays their music quite a bit. Interesting song background!

    Good to have you with us, Guilie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice, Dixie! And I'm jealous... Here in Curaçao no one's ever heard of them, so coming across their music would be about as probable here as finding a colony of Innuit :D Who knows, one of these days I might open up my own restaurant and surprise everyone, hehe.

      Thanks for the vote! Café Tacuba is leading the race... Let's see if their advantage holds.

      Delete
  4. Both are great! I'm the odd man out again, however - I like Guerra better for his Carribean vibe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you liked these, Cherdo — and yours was the vote that turned the tide :)

      Delete
  5. Hey Guilie,
    Good to see you here! I missed you on the 1st and glad that I stopped back to see if you posted a battle. I hate missing my friends' battles!

    Looks like I'm going to be the first to cast a vote for Guerra. I like that Carribean feel and enjoyed the beat and the tempo.
    Although I really did dig the violin in Cafe Tacuba's version.

    Interesting backstory on the song. Thanks for sharing that...

    Hope you are well! Have a great week...

    Michele at Angels Bark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michele, I'm so glad you came back! Thanks for that, and for the vote... Glad you enjoyed the music :)

      Delete
  6. Don't worry about the second version live performance detracting from the song. I think it was done very well. However, I do think the original was much better. It's only too bad the song's lyrics are so sad. Please give vote to Señor Guerra.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Jeffrey :) Glad you liked these, and thanks for coming by to vote. Just posted the results, too ;)

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. Got you down for Mr. Guerra, Mike. Thanks for the vote!

      Delete
  8. I preferred the version by Juan Luis Guerra. I thought he sounded smoother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have a point, John... Guerra is a seriously accomplished musician. Thanks for coming by!

      Delete
  9. Don't forget to stop by my battle Guilie. It's a Nancy Sinatra classic and one of my all-time favorites. I'm leaving the voting open for an extra day!

    Michele at Angels Bark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I made it in to vote on yours! Now off to check how the results played out :)

      Delete