Saturday, December 24, 2011

Duncan's Latest Mixpost

There was a substitute DJ on last night's Latin-music program on our community radio station, and his music choices varied from the normal fare. While I like the dance music and ballads that the others usually play, much of what I heard last night shook me out of mere hearing mode into listening, and online searching for more information. Even without listening closely I could tell that a lot of the lyrical content was political; not surprising because, as I found, the singers had political backgrounds.

I discovered that Sylvio Rodriguez, for example, is Cuban, a supporter of Castro's revolution, and has been very influential on people and musicians with left politics around the world. As he deserves to be, given what I heard last night. "Playa Giron," for example ("The Bay of Pigs," as we gabachos know it):

What caught my attention was the music rather than the lyrics, which I still haven't deciphered completely. The music reminded me of other Latin American guys with a guitar I've heard over the years. (Chicago's WFMT had a program called "The Midnight Special" that I used to listen when I was in high school. It's still on, apparently, but I haven't been able to access it for a long time. It introduced me to a lot of folkies and musical eccentrics, some of whom still matter to me, like Tom Lehrer. I don't know if I ever heard Sylvio Rodigruez on "The Midnight Special," but I'm sure I heard people who sounded like him and probably learned from him.) But it wasn't until I sat down to do this post and listened again that I realized that the late Korean singer Kim Gwang Seok also sounded like him.

This song, whose title means roughly "Too Sorrowful Love Isn't Love", imprinted itself permanently on my memory the first time I heard it. (Kim wasn't nearly as good a guitarist as Rodriguez, though.) Some of the lyrics are translated in the comments to the video clip I've embedded here, but I think it communicates its meaning if you don't understand the words. (In one version of this song I have on DVD, a TV performance, the tempo is faster and Kim beams like any other show-biz singer as he sings it; a jarring incongruity. A Korean friend told me that Kim played in the US at least once, at a university in St. Louis; the concert was supposed to be released on CD a couple of years ago, but I haven't been able to find it.) I'm going to do a post on Kim later on, because I feel sure I remember a song of his that sounded like "Playa Giron"; I also want to try to find a clip of the song he did that sounds exactly like Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice." If I find them, I'll put them up here; I should have written about this guy before.

But I digress; back to the music I heard last night. First, another song by Silvio Rodriguez, "Ojala" ("If Only"):

I'm going to try to learn some of Rodriguez' songs.

Another singer whose music was played last night was Pablo Milanes. Hm, another Cuban, though according to Wikipedia he used to be "aligned with the government, Milanés has since distanced himself from the official line, to the point of, during the seventies, being sent to a reeducation prison; he has since taken a more discreet line, even occupying political posts in times of greater political freedoms." Sylvio Rodriguez, among others, has performed with him. This was the first song I heard last night that made me pay attention, "Nelson Mandela y Sus Dos Amores". (Yes, that's "Nelson Mandela and His Two Loves.")

Later the DJ played "Felicidad" ("Happiness"):

Sheer gorgeousness. These seem to be more keyboard- than guitar-oriented, but I'll see if I can make some of Milanes' music work on guitar too. It's not all that often that I still discover music that on first hearing makes me ask, "Who is that?" and makes me want to hear more. Thanks to Brother William at WFHB for bringing these great singers into my world.