At the dawn of the Latin alt burst in 1998, a Newsweek cover story announced “Se Habla Rock and Roll? You Will Soon,” and a year later the New York Times predicted Latin alternative was “Approaching Its Final Border.” But by 2005, the Los Angeles Times’ Agustin Gurza compared the Latin boom to an exploding rocket that breaks apart halfway into orbit.
But no matter how many times Mexico’s Café Tacuba held court in front of the gentle mosh pits of Irving Plaza, or local bands such as Los Amigos Invisibles proved that funk, pop, disco, salsa, merengue and occasional bouts of thrash metal could hold everyone together on the dance floor, there was something missing. The energy that came from Latin America, which had produced most of the significant bands, was not duplicated in American cities.
Latin alternative settled back into a niche accessed by the mainstream only in a rare NPR moment, while driving to New England to see the fall foliage. [Ricky] Martin has settled into life as a father; Shakira reinvents herself as part-stripper, part-philanthropist; [Marc] Anthony got a gig playing a cop on TV; and J-Lo, well, you know where she is.
How did this happen? Certainly the immediate atmosphere after the 9/11 attacks was characterized by the mainstream’s distancing from cultures from outside its borders. Although the decade began with Barnes and Noble and other booksellers offering extensive selections of books in Spanish, by its end more and more politicians called for English to be the country’s official language. And earlier this year, the Grammy awards dropped 31 categories, including Latin jazz and traditional world music.
- From “After the Latin Bubble Burst,” by Ed Morales, New Jersey Star-Ledger
By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
You gotta love the World Cup. It’s a time when America’s forced to acknowledge not only that other countries exist, but that they might be better and more passionate at some things. The Olympics? Maybe once upon a time, but not when NBC frames the event as the feel-good story of (x) teenage athlete.
Anyway, this year’s selection for the official Cup theme song – a team-up between Shakira and South African group Freshlyground – has a rather curious history. The video below for “WAKA WAKA (This Time For Africa)” is SFW and is actually rather catchy.
While it might seem odd to see the Colombian Shakira fronting a song for a tournament held in South Africa, Guanabee notes that the song’s inspiration, “Zangalewa,” by a Cameroonian band of the same name, was actually popular in her country as well as several others in Africa. Guanabee also says, “The song, music historians say, is a criticism of black military officers who were in league with whites to oppress their own people. Or at least, some of it was. Some of it, as far was we can surmise, is gibberish.”
The “gibberish” thing is questionable, but the fact remains that some of the lyrics do use some uncomfortable imagery:
You’re a good soldier,
Choosing your battles
Pick yourself up,
And dust yourself off
And back in the saddle
You’re on the frontline
You know it’s serious
We’re getting closer
This isn’t over
At a time when popular media likes to depict Africa as little more than a confluence of civil wars – O HAI 24 & FLASHFORWARD! – are those really the words FIFA wants welcoming viewers to South Africa’s moment in the spotlight?
A more fitting choice might actually have been the song Coca-Cola picked to serve as the jingle for its’ Cup ad campaign, K’naan’s “Waving Flag.” (Full disclosure: I posted this version because the “official” video has an unnecessary cameo by Spanish reality-show alum David Bisbal and several annoyingly cheery “Latino” dancers, not to mention subtle product placements.)