Music of the Heart.
Music. I’m a huge fan. Huge. I am also bilingual (not that you have to be bilingual to listen to music in Spanish) and I listen to music in Español. Big plus.
Most often times in the morning, on my way to work, I put on my iPod (that I once swore I’d never buy) and listen to some groovy rock tunes in Spanish. Today, on the other hand, was a beautiful day and I walked around my neighborhood running errands. When it hits 40, people, Chicagoans go nuts especially after being cooped up all winter. Anyway, to say the least, I had my iPod on with all of my 24,000+ songs on shuffle. And suddenly, I came across Julieta Venegas’ song, “Algo Esta Cambiando” (“Something’s changing”) and I was like, “Ohh daaaamn! Haven’t heard this song in a while.” And there I went, moving and grooving to her music. I ended up playing her as an artist and listening to only her music for the rest of my journey.
At work the other day, Maura Hernandez, writer and adjunct professor at Columbia College who is helping us with editing at crunch time, Tweeted something about listening to music in Spanish and editing in English. I find that I do it quite often and it helps me focus and concentrate on what I’m doing. I could be listening to anything from Hector Lavoe and Joe Arroyo to Mana and Ojos de Brujo and it won’t matter. It makes me calm, it let’s me breathe and it keeps me grounded.
Odd, isn’t it? That it keeps me grounded, that is. Well, if you’ve ever seen Latinos listen to a remake of an old song their mom listens to while cleaning the house on Saturday morning, you’d understand. It’s a way of reminding us kids of where we came from. When we hear things like, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Vicente Fernandez and Juan Gabriel and maybe even as old as Leo Dan or Pedro Infante, our eyes glaze over and we start swaying to the beautiful melody of a tune we don’t necessarily connect with first hand, but know about through our parents’ or grandparents’ connection to the song. I like it, because my family likes it and it makes me feel closer to them.
Some of us haven’t been to Mexico (or country of our families’ origin) in years yet one of those old songs makes us nostalgic and even reminiscent of our time there. Rich Cantu, a noted local singer and former lead vocalist of Antenna, a local band, has a great voice. That guy can rock the house. The first time I heard him sing was at Mikey O’s Comedy Show sometime last year. He sat on a black stool with a red button down and black pants, nice shoes and his glasses on. He sang his heart out to new songs and older songs and everyone loved him. He makes people only wish they could sing the way he does. Every Saturday night he performs at Eivissa up north from 8 to Midnight. I went to take a listen a few weeks ago and he sang everything from “Hey Jude” by the Beatles to “El Rey” by Jose Alfredo Jimenez and boy did he work it. It’s inspiring.
When he sang “El Rey” the younger cats sitting at the bar cheered and sang along to the song. They’re not old enough to personally relate to the song when it first hit radio waves, but I bet they felt the same way I did. I knew the song, every lyric to it, but it came out at a time when my family was still back in Mexico and had no foresight into being in the United States. That song, for me, was brought over into my life by my grandparents, then my parents. It made us feel Mexican, closer to the roots, keeping it alive and not forgetting.
So when I listen to my Spanish music, whether it’s Mexican, Spanish, Peruvian or Puerto Rican, the language alone keeps me grounded and rooted into where I come from and how proud I feel as a part of a community that brings about such beauty. When I feel like I haven’t spoken Spanish well or heard it in days, because even though I do hear it a lot sometimes I just don’t feel like I have enough, I put on something really good like Bronco or Juanes (don’t judge me) or Juan Luis Guerra.
It hits that soft spot. It makes me think more and above all, it broadens my musical horizon and my educational scope. I love it all and it makes me feel better.