I rant about Latin culture as much as I want here on the blog. But in person I’ve learned to keep the complaints private. The wise expat knows that gringos have been coming to these lands for hundreds of years, telling the Hispanicized how to improve their societies and be less backward. The obvious effect is generations of built-up resistance to gringo advice, no matter how wise it is.
I have learned that and subsequently shut the hell up about things, except on this blog of course. It’s my outlet.
But there are some subjects I don’t keep quiet on with Latin Americans, and one of them is rock en español. I don’t want anybody to play it around me, ever. I want them to understand and never forget, so I tell them this analogy. When a gringo hears rock en español, it’s like a Latin listening to salsa in English. Then I ask them, would they like to hear salsa in English? Of course not.
I came into this article thinking I was going to rip and snark and insult. I got together a list of a few songs I know, and a lot of songs from my good friend Ajiaco who often leaves insightful comments on this blog (and without whom I couldn’t have written this article).
But once I went through all the songs, I realized my verdict is not death for rock en español. A lot of these songs are nice. The problem is if you play the local radio station you don’t hear a selection like this.
Manu Chao – Me Gustas Tu
I have to put this one first because it’s probably the most successful rock en español song to cross over into non-Spanish-speaking fame. It’s hard not to like, unless you’ve heard it hundreds of times. Check out Clandestino, an ode for illegal immigrants.
Juanes – La Paga
I wrote a whole post on Juanes. Not because I like him. The song above is the only one I like, specifically because it’s more rhythmic. He doesn’t try those drawn-out riffs and emotional wails that just don’t work in Spanish.
Juanes is the Bono of rock en español.
Gian Marco – Hoy
It’s hard to underestimate how much I hate Gian Marco. I hate his music, but that’s just the start. He looks like me, very white and bald. He even wears the same kind of fuckin’ hat I do. Although he clearly doesn’t do any barbell strength training.
He’s Peruvian, and he’s an uber-megastar across Latin America, second only to Juanes. So the basketball mates all call out “¡Gian Marco, Gian Marco!” when I score a basket. I suffer random Peruvians on the streets of Lima calling out to me, “¡Hola, Gian Marco!”
You may think that’d be cool, to be likened to a huge celebrity. But Gian Marco’s music is complete pussy shit. I can’t stand any of his songs. It’s like listening to Sting or some other wimp. I wouldn’t mind if they called me Cosculluela or somebody cool. But Gian Marco is soft as a baby’s ass.
If Juanes is Bono, Gian Marco is Sting. Imagine if people called you Sting everywhere you went.
Bomba Estereo – Fuego
Absolutely irresistible, again unless you’ve heard it hundreds of times. Probably a little played out in Bogota as every rock band I’ve seen covers it. Check out Bomba Estereo’s latest hit, Que Bonito.
Molotov – Puto
Mexican rock band. Very vulgar, lots of Chinga Tu Madre. I saw these guys perform in Peru, but the only song I like is Frijolero.
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Matador
Very popular ska band from Argentina.
I have been to the Primer de Mayo, the party district of Southern Bogota, exactly one time with the Bogota expat known as Rubio, who is a musician. So he took us to all the cool live music spots, and one was a ska band that played music similar to Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. After all I’d heard about Primer de Mayo, how sketchy and dangerous it is, even from the deported community (who would have been going to the rap clubs), I couldn’t believe the scene in this clean and seemingly upscale music hall. Colombians dressed nice, most with collars and some even wearing slacks, Antioqueño bottles everywhere, rocking the house down dancing and sweating and getting hammered. Great music, great crowd in the middle of Primer de Mayo.
If you like that song, check out Vasos Vacios (with Celia Cruz).
Vilma Palma e Vampiros – Auto Rojo
Don’t let the big hair fool you. This Argentine band’s OK, and they’ve enjoyed huge success since the 90s. Also check out Fernet con Coca, an ode to Argentina’s national cocktail, which I have gotten twisted on a handful of times.
La Pestilencia – Fango
This Colombian punk band from the 80s sang about all the violence and corruption that was going on. I am a fan of punk, although as I grew into my 30s I’ve been more Clash and Ramones, less Black Flag and Bad Brains. La Pestilencia is definitely more the latter. If you like that, check out Soldado Mutilado.
Soda Stereo – La Ciudad de la Furia (with Andrea Echeverri of Aterciopelados)
One of the biggest bands in Rock en Español history, their lead singer has been in a coma for a couple years. Came from Argentina. Aside from this song, mostly insufferable.
Cafe Tacuba – Eres
One of Mexico’s biggest rock bands. Often did parodies of music like banda and norteño.
Caifanes – Ayer Me Dijo Un Ave
Another huge Mexican band, a Mexican copy of The Cure. I wish I had more hands …
Jaguares – Asi Como Tú
This one’s nice.
TK – Inminente Conjunción
My wife likes this hit. It’s on MTV. It’s a perfect example of why I say such horrible things about rock en español.
Nacha Pop – Lucha de Gigantes
This song is featured on Amores Perros, when they are having sex on the laundry machine. And that’s the nicest thing I can say about it.
Sui Generis – Canción Para Mi Muerte
Argentine band from the 70s that reminds of the Grateful Dead or The Band.
Los Prisioneros – Sexo
A Chilean band from the 80s similar to a lot of New Wave at the time. See a social commentary song, Latinoamerica es un Pueblo al Sur de Estados Unidos.
Pedro Suarez Vertiz – Cuando Pienses en Volver
An ode to all the expats out there, Latinos in Gringo lands, gringos in Latinamerica.
Hello Seahorse – Criminal
This is more recent Spanish language indie rock from Mexico. Hipsters dig it.
Plastilina Mosh – Nalguita
This Mexican band’s similar to what Beck was doing in the 90s. They get name-checked in Y Tu Mamá También.
Mago de Oz – El Atrapasueños
I don’t really like Flogging Molly, the Dropkick Murphys, and that strange Irish-American rock subgenre.
But it gets even worse. This is that Irish-American annoyance … in Spanish.
Babasonicos – Y Que
Argentine contemporary rock band. I like.
Irakere – Bacalao con Pan
This Cuban band is supposedly jazz, but this song rocks like hell. A combination of jazz, funk, salsa and rock. Mind-blowing to consider that Fidel allowed this to exist.
El Tri – Triste Canción de Amor
Mexican AC/DC fail.
Coz – Las Chicas Son Guerreras
I love this cheesy 80s hit.
Libido – En Esta Habitación
Another Peruvian song that made MTV. Another one from the wife. This one’s not horrible.
Klaus y Kinski – Rocanrolear
Indie rock from Spain. The title is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with rock en español.
Los Rodriguez – Sin Documentos
Two Argentines, Two Spaniards, including singer/songwriter Andres Calamaro. All thoroughly forgettable.
Bersuit Vergarabat – Señor Cobranza
Argentine Hard rock band, this song is Rage Against the Machine meets Suicidal Tendencies.
La Derecha – Ay, Que Dolor!
Colombian rock band from the 90s. Great images of Bogota without so much traffic in the video.
Aterciopelados – Florecita Rockera
Colombian girl rock. Bolero Falaz has some nice shots of downtown Bogota from back in the day.
Mano Negra – Mala Vida
Manu Chao’s original band.
So what do you say, rock en español, yay or nay?