Sunday, October 02, 2005

"Crossover" no more

It seems that every decade had had its hit Spanish song – Perez Prado in the 40s, "La Bamba" in the 50s, "Guantanamera" in the 60s, "Eres tú" in the 70s .... does Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" count for the 80s?

For the most part, these were mere blips on the Top 40 radar, one-hit crossover wonders. They were fun, they were hits, and we all hummed them and did our best to sing along (I didn't speak Spanish at the time, so I was just singing along phonetically). But they didn't herald an entire paradigm shift in the way we listen to music.

But I can tell you right now, there is a huge paradigm shift going on.

I know it when I turn on a Top 40 station and hear not just one Spanish song, but many.

I know it when I my 5th grade students are working on a project and I hear the kid who has always HATED Spanish singing loudly to himself, "Boricua, americana ... ¡dame más gasolina!

And I really know it when I get in the car with my 16-year-old daughter and her friends – my daughter, who has always disliked Latin music and tries to distance herself from my tastes in all things – and instead of asking me to turn OFF the Spanish station, she herself tunes the radio to 105.9 "La calle", and starts singing, "Y yo voy, voy, voy...."

Reggaeton has blasted through whatever we used to think of as "crossover" and firmly established itself in our popular culture. And kids who never paid attention to Spanish before are singing and dancing along. Never mind that they still don't understand what the singers are saying; they're just enjoying the experience.

Actually, it's a very good thing that some of these kids don't understand the lyrics, since every reggaeton song I've ever heard is so raunchy that an English translation would never make it on the airwaves! I hope my students don't start asking me to translate ... but I also hope they'll take the initiative themselves and buy a Spanish dictionary so they can translate for themselves.

Anything that motivates suburban Anglo kids to learn about Spanish language and Latino cultures is valuable, in my book. So let's see how long reggaeton will continue to make my job easier!

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