Saturday, December 8, 2012

I'm gonna give it to you (baby)

A couple of nights ago I was talking to a Chilean friend on Gchat and (knowing that he speaks English) I slipped a phrase in English into the conversation. His immediate response: "no seas como los chicanos...no spanglish here" ("don't be like the Chicanos..."). At the time I didn't think too much about his comment (though there actually is a lot to talk about there, but that's another post), but today I was listening to a Cuban timba album, and the first chorus of one of the songs goes: "Open the door, open the door o me tiro por la window" (open the door or I'll jump out the window) which made me laugh a lot. In fact, lots of salsa (and in this case, timba, salsa's modern Cuban cousin) songs have bits of English thrown in there as well as full on Spanglish, which is unsurprising given that salsa was more or less born in New York among Latinos. Much if not most of it is tongue-in-cheek, like Celia Cruz's statement "my English is not very good-looking" which is also quoted in a very well known song by Marc Anthony.

The second chorus of "Open the door" repeatedly sings "se la llevaron" (they took it with them), which always reminds me of when I was just starting to learn Spanish and was struggling with direct and indirect object pronouns. It took me quite awhile before I could comfortably use phrases like "me lo robaron" (they stole it from me) or "se lo llevas" (you take it to her/him). It probably would have been helpful if I had been listening to salsa and its relatives back then.


One of the best examples of this I've come across lately is this nifty little song above; if you repeat the chorus, "a la que me lo pida se lo doy" to any native Spanish speaker, they will instantly chuckle. That's because "a la que me lo pida se lo doy" means "to whoever asks for it, I'll give it to them," but in Spanish the 'whoever' is understood from the 'la', which is feminine, so it really means to any female, and the 'lo' is masculine and therefore tells you that both 'it's are masculine. Now, remember that you are in Latin America and everything has the potential for double entendre. Also, penis is a masculine noun. So instead of "to whoever asks for it, I'll give it to them," you end up with (re-arranging for comprehension) "I'll give my penis to any girl who requests it" or "I'll have sex with any girl who asks me." Classy, right? (To clarify, this particular song is another related genre called son, not salsa.)

Like most musical genres, salsa, timba and son lyrics can be offensive, simply silly like the ones above, or politically/socially motivated. Recently Felipe and I have been OBSESSED with Gonzalo Grau y la Clave Secreta, a little-known Venezuelan-directed timba group who have both amazing arrangements and more socially-minded lyrics. These two songs are a great place to start if you're interested.

No comments:

Post a Comment