Stuck in what feels like groundhog month, the days they fly by and I’ve reserved myself to an early hibernation, ducking disaster and financial ruin by hiding away in a concrete tower, surrounded by a moat swarming with fascists, the communication lines severed for safety. Escapism is my drug, and music my dealer.
You know how sometimes songs or artists just come at you out of nowhere? Showing up at the perfect time — like a good quote or a fortune cookie prediction — they sometimes provide surprise answers, or in the very least some form of cosmic comfort. And that’s actually my favourite way of discovering music: when the music comes to me. In light of this, the next couple of shows in store are with music from places that seem to circle my sonic periphery and pop up on my mental timeline so as to speak. Places that call my name like a siren, seeping their way into my subconscious through work, friends, family, and sheer randomness.
I’ve asked myself many times: is this timing a coincidence, or am I just seeing and hearing what I want to see and hear? Maybe all the answers have been there all along, I just wasn’t looking for them yet, or I wasn’t asking the right questions. Maybe the universe is indeed sending me signals and messages through music and records and poems and songs. It doesn’t matter one way or the other I guess, because thankfully for (and unlike) us, music stands the test of time.
This time, we start in Texas by way of Mexico, with Lydia Mendoza, whose voice and compositions are enchanting as the lyrics are haunting, her ‘Tango Negro’ telling the story of how her heart fell into the abyss after losing her lover. I first heard Lydia Mendoza about four years ago, thanks to my friend Mariam (hi Merm! <3) and have returned to her beautiful and rather dark songs often since then. Mariam also turned me on to Ranil’s Jungle Party, a record by an outfit I read out incorrectly on air — lo siento! The right name is Ranil Y Su Conjunto Tropical and you can read a bit more about their fantastic mix of tropical cumbia here.
I also recently discovered Violeta Parra, a musician, composer and ethnomusicologist from Chile, whose songs spoke of war, social injustice and loss, among other things. One of her songs recounts the story of her brother getting arrested, while ‘Volver a los 17’ (Return to 17) has a deeply melancholic tone in the lyrics and minor chord progressions. ‘Like a mosquito on a rock.’ Her most famous song, ‘Gracias a la Vida,’ may sound hopeful, as she gives thanks to life for all it has given her, but it is also considered by some a form of suicide note, as she shot herself in the head in 1967. She inspired many other folk and traditional musicians around Chile and further abroad, and also helped shape the neo-folk movement known as Nueva Canción Chilena.
Another Chilean folk singer who was part of this movement was Victor Jara, a composer, teacher and activist among other things, whom we also heard on Storm Stereo’s Chilean Punk Special a few weeks ago. He was influenced by artists like Parra, as well as by poets like Pablo Neruda, and his songs talk of social injustice, peace and love, which is heartbreakingly ironic because in 1973 he was arrested and tortured under the Pinochet dictatorship and eventually shot dead.
Another musician inspired by Neruda is Paco Ibañez, from Andalusia in the south of Spain, who doesn’t write his own lyrics, but who prefers to interpret poems by the likes of Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca, Miguel Fernandez and Raul Gonzalez. We listen to ‘Cancion de Jinete’ (The Rider’s Song) and ‘El Lagarto Asta Llorando’ (The Lizard is Crying), both by the Andalusia poet Lorca, who was executed in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish civil war by Nationalist forces and whose body is yet to be found…
Part Two of the show explores more modern Spanish output, though still mainly from the ’80s, starting with poppy rockers Moviles, who I think are on the DRO (Discos Radioactivos Organizados) sub-label Héroes De Los 80s. After una obsesión permanente by ’70s rockers Leño, we move to Parálisis Permanente, followed by a new discovery for me, Polansky y el Ardor, a band with that added sax appeal. We move to the end like ‘Lost Souls’ around ‘Europa’ thanks to faves Décima Víctima and newly discovered Derribos Arias (thanks to this article), and close it off with some industrial love and introspection by Spanish luminaries Aviador Dro and Esplendor Geométrico.
In the future we’ll be exploring siren songs from far-off Japan and long-gone Yugoslavia, among other places, and I promise the #punk2016 #hcnow special is in the works, my form of a Best Of 2016 list. Today’s show was recorded and prepped weeks ago, so any reflections on the year leaving us and the people sadly already gone, will come up in a future edition. Sometimes words just aren’t enough despite their power. Until next time, stay posi, stray strong. Siempre será canción nueva…
With love from outer space
LYDIA MENDOZA – Tango Negro
RANIL Y SU CONJUNTO TROPICAL – Chinito Rulo
LYDIA MENDOZA – Mal Hombre
VIOLETA PARRA – El Amor
VIOLETA PARRA – Volver a los 17
VICTOR JARA – El Derecho De Vivir En Paz
VICTOR JARA – Manifesto
PACO IBAÑEZ – Cancion de Jinete
PACO IBAÑEZ – El Lagarto Esta Llorando
REBECA DEL RIO – Llorando
MILES DAVIS – Concierto de Aranjuez
MOVILES – Hoy
LEÑO – Sorprendente
PARÁLISIS PERMANENTE – Nacidos Para Dominar
POLANSKY Y EL ARDOR – Chantaje Emocional
DÉCIMA VÍCTIMA – Almas Perdidas
DERRIBOS ARIAS – Europa
AVIADOR DRO – Amor Industrial
ESPLENDOR GEOMÉTRICO –Introspección