Natalia Lafourcade

This is Blog 14 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Natalia Lafourcade

Spanish is my third language but it is definitely the most beautiful of the three (and it makes me wish it was my first).

Natalia Lafourcade writes and interprets songs that make me fall in love with the language all over again. The songs are poetic and clever, reintroducing traditional rhythms and instruments into modern day music.

In 2017 she released one of my favorite albums ever; “MUSAS”.

Hearing the songs and seeing the accompanying videos, makes me feel like I was there. Musas is more than just an album. Musas is a cultural project, a movement, a statement.

Someone said it quite well on social media: “We had a tremendous outstanding debt to traditional Latin American music that was expunged when the album Musas was made. ¡Gracias Natalia!”

On the album Natalia reinterprets well-known folkloric songs and introduces new ones, that will undoubtedly become classics as well. The tiny desk concert she did in 2017 gives us a small taste:

Anybody who’s learning Spanish should listen to her music as a mandatory language lesson. Her pronunciation is precise and clear. Also, the fact that her songs are relatively slow make it all easier to follow (and let’s face it, that can be a challenge with spoken Spanish).

The video below is a bonus video for Hispanohablantes that want to immerse themselves in Natalia’s folkloric universe for a bit longer or for Spanish students that are ready for a challenge (there are no subtitles).

She’s a delight, isn’t she? I’m such a huge fan!

“The sound of silence” en español

Ahhh, there’s a real chance this song may annoy the hell out of me in a couple of weeks because I’ve been listening to it quite obsessively and for this blogpost I will be dissecting and translating it, which isn’t always beneficial for one’s relationship to a song.

But here we go; the song is by the incredibly talented Jorge Drexler and is called “Silencio”.

The lyrics are really very simple, as is the song as a whole. As a matter of fact, I think this song would be super nice to use in a Beginner’s Spanish course!

So, press play above, and read (or sing) along with the lyrics below.
Todo el mundo intentando venderte algo
The whole world is trying to sell you something

Intentando comprarte
They’re trying to buy you

Queriendo meterte en su melodrama
Trying to pull you into their melodrama

Su karma, su cama, su salto a la fama
into their karma, their bed, their leap into fame

Su breve momento de gloria
their brief moment of glory

Sus dos megas de memoria
their two megabytes of memory

Subirte a su nube
They try to upload you to their cloud

Como un precio que sube
like a prize that rises

Para luego exhibirte
so they can expose you

Como un estandarte
as if you were a banner

No encuentro nada más valioso que darte…
I can’t think if anything more valuable to give you…

…nada más elegante…
…nothing more elegant…

…que este instante...
…than this instant…

…de silencio.
…of silence.

Silencio
Silence

El índice vertical entre la boca y la nariz
the raised index finger, between the mouth and the nose

El eco en la catedral
the echo in the cathedral

La brisa en la enredadera
the breeze in the ivies

Entremos en el sonido hasta el penúltimo matiz
let’s enter into the sound until the penultimate shade

Hagámosle caso al gesto de la foto de la enfermera
let’s follow the gesture of the photo of the nurse

Y cuando el ruido vuelva a saturar la antena
and when the noise returns to saturate the antenna

Y una sirena rompa la noche, inclemente
and a siren rudely breaks the night

No encontraremos nada más pertinente
we can’t think of anything more relevant…

…que decirle a la mente…
…to tell the mind…

 

“Detente!
“Stop!”

[Hook]

Bésame ahora
Kiss me now

Antes que diga algo completamente inadecuado
Before I say something completely inadequate

No hay que desperdiciar una buena ocasión
We shouldn’t waste a good occasion

De quedarse callado
to remain silent

[Hook]

Y cuando el ruido vuelva a saturar la antena
and when the noise returns to saturate the antenna

Y una sirena rompa la noche, inclemente
and a siren rudely breaks the night

No encontraremos nada más pertinente
we can’t think of anything more relevant…

…que decirle a la mente…
…to tell the mind…

 

“Detente!
“Stop!”

 

 

Psychological home run/run home

pondering CH.gifMy daily routine has been pretty routine lately and it’s really been bothering me that this is also reflecting in my blog. I’m afraid I may be following Discovery Channel’s trend, broadcasting more and more uninteresting zombie-fodder and less thought-provoking, self-exploring opinion pieces.

The other day, though, I finally found myself staring into space, probably looking kinda dumb but feeling pretty darn philosophical. How nice it was to have those wheels turning again!

This pensive mood emerged after I re-watched an interview with a Belgian writer, Griet op de Beeck, of whom I had never heard but was captivated by from the first moment she started speaking. (Thanks again Zeef, for recommending it (and for the readers who understand Dutch here is the link to the interview in question).)

The interview is from a Dutch show called Zomergasten in which the interviewer and the guest sit at a simple table in a large room, decorated according to the wishes of the guest. Griet chose to emphasize the beauty of decay and set the stage for an evening of pretty deep psychological reflection.

Griet zomergasten.jpg

Besides setting the mood by decorating the stage, the guest also gets to choose about a dozen film fragments that are shown throughout the interview (which lasts for about three hours). The interview can therefore be partially steered by the guest and Griet seemed to have thought this all through very well.

Agrietopdebeeck.jpgll though the interview contained many many moments that blogs should be dedicated to, I decided to  focus on one specific storyline. I only sort of decided up to what extent I actually agree with Griet in the process of writing this though, so forgive me it’s not completely coherent…

You see, one of the videos that Griet had requested, was about a young boy, aged nine, who had been forced to return to Kosovo after his family’s request for asylum was denied. The whole process had taken six years. Six years in which the kid (let’s call him Vasili, I can’t recall what his name really was atm) and his sister had learnt to speak Flemish fluently, in which they had made friends and had built the foundations of who they now were.

Kosovo-565x424.jpgVasili broke into tears when he was asked to explain why he wasn’t enjoying life in Kosovo thus far. Griet felt this boy was scarred for life by the trauma of being ripped away from everything that felt safe and familiar to him. She emphasized the need for professional help and that he may otherwise never overcome this. She expressed her anger towards the deportation policies that Belgium, and pretty much every other European country for that matter (with the exception of Germany perhaps), were executing. She blamed them for ruining the life of this young boy and thousands of others who were being forced to leave.

And all though I feel Griet underestimates the resilience of a child’s mind here, it did bring back some memories of my own…

I was forced to move at the age of twelve myself and was angry and sad and yes, maybe traumatized for quite some time. By “forced” I mean, my parents decided it for me. There were no politics involved (all though people that know my parents and their marriage may beg to defer). There was no government decree hanging over our heads, nor had the country we were heading back to ever formed a threat to our existence. Even more so, the country I was leaving was a struggling development country and the one I was heading to was wealthy, clean and full of opportunities. So yes, the comparison is crooked in many ways, but I do feel I can relate to Vasili’s fate up to some degree…

At some point Vasili says something along the lines of “the kids are kind of crazy here”. A line I probably said in my first months back in Holland as well. All though, in all honesty, I remember being much less polite and using much unfriendlier adjectives to describe my new classmates. I could hardly handle their stupidity (they hadn’t seen a mountain in their LIFE and only spoke ONE language, and I probably even spoke that one better than they did as well…)

flying-dream21.jpgIn the absence of a time machine I made it my mission in life to see the Andes again ASAP and I did so every time I closed my eyes. It was the age in which internet was just barely emerging and even though my dad was quick to bring it into our home most of the people I missed so much did not have access to it yet or I had not been able to find them. I wrote notes to myself to remember the things I was afraid I would forget. I rode my bike around my former hometown in my daydreams and drew mental maps of the area in the process. I forced myself to speak Spanish to myself and grew extremely anxious when I couldn’t remember a certain word.

Even after puberty stopped throwing fuel on my anger it took me many years to be at peace with where I was. It took a while, but I am now not only aware but also willing to admit that this is a good place to be, economically, politically and socially. I am also well aware of the fact that this is an after thought that kids like Vasili won’t always be able to fall back on in their new home countries.

So what would I say to Vasili?

I would tell him he is allowed to feel angry and that venting is good. If this involves screaming and slamming doors at first, that’s fine. Putting his feelings into words at some point is crucial though, even if there is nothing more to say than “This sucks”.

I would also tell him that it will get better.

homerun.jpgSomething I may not tell him right now but that I would want him to know later on in life is that at some point he will have to move on.

And if he manages to shake off that feeling of victimhood, his burden may become a strength. The curveball that was thrown at him as a kid could be smashed out of the stadium later on in life.

A home run, if not in the literal sense than surely figuratively speaking…

Twenty minutes of wisdom

Undiluted. Uncensored. Unapolagetic. And sadly, unsubtitled.

José Mujica’s speech hit me like a strong tidal wave, when I heard it today. He spoke for less than twenty minutes at the Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR)- meeting last week. I turned the video on, thinking I would listen to it while unpacking the groceries I had just carried in, but I was mesmerized instantaneously and didn’t move until he was done. My groceries are still unpacked. I had to share it first. My heart is full and I wish more people would listen. I wish I would listen. And I AM!

It is one of those speeches that should be viewed in history classes in years to come. I would like to say it is his “I have a dream” moment, but with this man it is just one of his many inspiring appearances.

You can watch the whole speech in Spanish, if you are hispanohablante. The full transcript can also be found here.

A few quick quotes I translated (and trust me, there is so much more in there):

Some of us have been taught lessons in a world that is a valley of tears, so you can go to a paradise afterwards, but I will not take you there. This is the paradise or this is your condemnation. It is this life that you must fight for, so that the people may live their lives in a better way. There is no compromise.

(…)

After having been born you can give [your life] content or not. You can alienate yourself from life, let the market buy you, go through life buying cards or buying rides and move forward. And then at the end, when you are old like me, full of rheumatism, you are found naked… and what did you do for the world?

But if you had a dream and fought for hope and tried to transmit it to the rest, their might be a small breathe of you that lingers on in the hills, in the seas. A faint memory that is worth more than a monument, than a book, than a hymn, than a poem; it is the human hope that is established in the new generations.

Friends, nothing is worth more than life. Fight for happiness! And happiness is giving life content and direction and not letting anyone steal it from you. There is no recipe for this. It is in the consciousness that you get when you use the marvelous opportunity of having been born.

I am going to unpack my groceries now, but I will be back later on to translate this speech to English and see if I can share it with all of you.