Nonnegotiable Time

Neko Case, a the vocalist in cult band “The New Pornographers,” is one of one hundred artists, entrepreneurs and writers interviewed for “In the Company of Women,” a surprisingly unsappy coffee table book. 

Pictured above is what she had to say about time and making it to make art. I agree. 

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Salsa’s Living Lyrical Legend

salsa musicA couple of Saturdays ago, I went to see Rubén Blades play live. Blades may very well be the greatest salsa music composer still playing today. This is due, in large part, to the fact that he is a healthy salsa musician, far removed from the late night excesses of his contemporaries, many of which have passed away. Blades even served as Minister of Tourism for his native Panama in 2004 and holds a degree in International Law from Harvard University.

His songs rank among the best loved salsa classics in the genre’s history, such as “El Cantante,” “Pedro Navaja,” and “Decisiones.” As such, his lyrics can easily be considered to be some of the most frequently recited poems in the Spanish language.
Blades’s “El Cantante,” or “The Singer,” became Héctor Lavoe‘s emblematic tune. Lavoe was the enfant terrible of salsa in the seventies, who sang like no one before and no body after. Here is a link to Lavoe performing the song. And, below are the song’s lyrics in both Spanish and English.
The Singer
I am the singer
who you’ve come to hear today
the best of my repertory
I will offer you today
I sing to life
to laughter and sorrow
to difficult moments
and to good times
You’ve come to have fun
and paid at the door
there’s no time for sorrow
come on singer begin
I get stopped in the street
and many people tell me
“Hey Héctor you’re made
surrounded by women and parties”
But nobody wonders
if I cry or suffer
if I carry a sorrow
that hurts very deep
I am the Singer
because I know how to sing
and the public pays
to listen to me.
I am the Singer
very popular wherever I go
but when the show is over
I am just another person
And I go on with my life
with laughter and sorrow
with bitter moments
and with good times.
I am the Singer
and my business is to sing
and to those that will listen
I will offer my song
Chorus –
Today I offer you my best songs…
El Cantante
Yo soy el cantante
que hoy han venido a escuchar
lo mejor del repertorio
a ustedes voy a brindarY canto a la vida
de risas y penas
de momentos malos
y de cosas buenas

Vinieron a divertirse
y pagaron en la puerta
no hay tiempo para tristeza
vamos cantante comienza

Me paran siempre en la calle
mucha gente que comenta
¡Oye Hector ah! tu estas hecho
siempre con hembras y en fiestas

Y nadie pregunta
si sufro si lloro
si tengo una pena
que hiere muy hondo.

Yo soy el Cantante
porque lo mío es cantar
y el público paga
para poderme escuchar

Yo soy el cantante
muy popular donde quiera
pero cuando el show se acaba
soy otro humano cualquiera

Y sigo mi vida
con risas y penas
con ratos amargos
y con cosas buenas

Yo soy el cantante
y mi negocio es cantar
y a los que me siguen
mi canción voy a brindar

Coro:
Hoy te dedico mis mejores pregones…

 

 

This post was originally published in Zeteo Journal.

Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, op. 21

aspen music festival poetry

Older folk lift closed eyes. Those with large

noses open their mouths. A precise woman

in pearls wears her white hair in a cocoon bun.

Her cheekbones tighten

like mountain air.

 

The few who lean in defy middle age:

spine bent, forehead lined.

Men move more than their dates,

confirm rhythms with the dip

of eroded chins.

 

But it is the woman in pearls

who offers her face. Eyes

like drums. Mouth on a string.

Her elder husband sways.

 

Meanwhile we, the youth,

miss every second note.

Take comfort in the evening stored,

however loosely, on our phone.

 

aspen music festival poetry

 

Written at the Benedict Music Tent, during the Aspen Music Festival 2014

Pop Poetry

LordeIf I don’t keep up with what’s going on musically, I feel irremediably old. So I maintain a sampling of Miley Cyrus, Drake, Rihanna and the lesser-known wonders my musician brother keeps me privy to in my playlist. From experience, I can tell you that it’s true, babies love Beyonce.

One new musician that “everyone” is talking about is 17-year-old New Zealander Lorde. She’s on the current cover of the Rolling Stones and won two Grammies this past weekend for her album “Pure Heroine.”

But what I want to highlight is that she is a poetry-loving bookworm. Here is what she told Rolling Stones in her interview:

I have this thing with, like, words being in that perfect order, and you know exactly how they’re trying to make you feel. And the order of the words. . .just, like, slapping you in the heart.

In her songs she ridicules pop music’s obsession with gold and points at the distance this materialism drives between itself and its very audience. She rarely smiles and keeps covered up. Her mother claims she read 1,000 books by age 12. Even adjusted for maternal inflation, this is an awesome figure.

Since song lyrics are the form of poetry that get the most air play today, I wanted to share those of her hit “Royals.” Compared to the usual assortment of “Get Dirty and Dance” tracks, her music, her age and her presence are an infinitely poetic respite.

I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I’m not proud of my address

In a torn-up town, no postcode envy

But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair

And we’ll never be royals
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule
Let me live that fantasy

[Verse 2]
My friends and I—we’ve cracked the code
We count our dollars on the train to the party
And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this
We didn’t come from money

But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair

And we’ll never be royals
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule
Let me live that fantasy

Ooh ooh oh
We’re bigger than we ever dreamed
And I’m in love with being queen
Ooh ooh oh
Life is great without a care
We aren’t caught up in your love affair

And we’ll never be royals
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule
Let me live that fantasy

Click here to see her stunning, pared-down Grammy performance of this song.

 

Photo by Kirk Stauffer, published in Wikimedia Commons. This is part of my ongoing collaboration with Zeteo Journal. Please click here to see more. 

 

Jay Gatsby & Jay Z

The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald Literature Books

I took advantage of the mental lull brought on by severe jet lag and watched Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby yesterday. The film has been criticized for being shallow. And it’s true; it is absolutely shallow. But this is why it is gets it right.

Mr. Fitzgerald was also shallow, which is part of the reason why he became the literary voice of a generation enamored with parties and getting drunk. Of course,  he was also a splendid writer with a sad heart.

But, what’s wrong with shallow, anyway? Shallow is an intelligent reaction from a generation who had just fought World War I. If you might die tomorrow, fighting an unintelligible, impossible fight, you might as well have some fun the night before.

So the levity of the film was unsurprising and, indeed, welcome. The real revelation was the soundtrack.

Mr Lurhmann told The Rolling Stones Magazine: “…in our age, the energy of jazz is caught in the energy of hip-hop.”

True, hip-hop is certainly energetic, but I think hip-hop fit the story faultlessly because it embodies all the over-the-top, overnight bootlegging glitz of the roaring 20s.  Jay Z’s voice filled Jay Gatsby’s empty castle better than all the toys of the newly rich.

Is there anything more perfectly superficial than a Fergie dance track? Only The Great Gatsby.