This “Music Monday” idea I stole from HP of Hillbilly Highways. But rather than write about Americana, I’m going to write about Mexicana. And…being that my schedule’s a bit rough today, this might end up as a Tuesday post. What can I say? I’m a little backwards.
In the old days — snort, meaning the last few years — we’ve quite superstitously taken a New Year’s song from whatever was playing on the radio or other media when the clock rolled over to midnight mountain time. This year, midnight beat us to the punch, and my husband hurried over to YouTube to pick from “recommended” videos. He didn’t look; he just picked.
“No, no, no!” I protested. “It can’t be Tragos amargos. I don’t want 2019 to be tainted with bitter sad alcoholism spawned by lost love.”
So he clicked on the next: Naufraga en mi cama. Again, I protested. I didn’t care for the idea of being shipwrecked in my bed due to tragedy. Let it not be so. And on it went until he was so exasperated I stopped protesting. Lágrimas de cristal ended up being our New Year’s song. At least in that one, the sadness has a happy inspirational feel, if you’re the type of guy who likes to imagine the woman you broke up with sitting at home and crying. It’s not clear who broke up with whom, actually. Al partir, the song says. At the parting. I’m guessing she broke up with him, but only because of the ambiguous language.
Mexican music is difficult, but the type I listen to is folk music. Folk music is difficult in any language as it records the more often than not dark, sad history of humanity. Of course, not all of it is melancholic. As with any folk music, there are also songs about positive love experiences, the joys of crushes, and dancing and eating marvelous foods. There are bragadacio songs — plenty of them — and instructional diddies (how to dance or love). And then there are the oddball songs that touch the soul, but that don’t fit neatly in melancholic or joyous ballads. Ramón Ayala’s Mi golondrina is one of my favorites of this latter category; it’s a song about the flight of a swallow that could be a metaphor for anything cyclical that might just seem static when in the top or bottom of that circle. To me, it’s a song about the poetic spirit or the muse, as it were. It comes and goes with the season of life, and I’m never sure if it will return to me.
Melancholic or not, the draw of Mexican music for me is the incongruity of the simple lyrics with the full, dramatic sounds of the accordion mixed with saxophone or the brass band. I’ve often called it happy-sad music, but a better descriptor would be boisterous. It has a lot of energy. That alone makes it worthy of New Year’s music, the uninspiring lyrics notwithstanding.
Signing out from New Mexico country, right here in the borderlands….