I don’t speak Portuguese. But I have a Portuguese language program loaded on my laptop and I’m learning.
Don’t know what it is about music sung in Portuguese – specifically Brazilian music – but it grabs me and I want to listen to it all.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had a birthday and she gave her guests a CD loaded with a variety of Brazilian music. I play at least a couple of songs on that CD everyday, sometimes over and over. I speak Spanish, so I have some idea of what the singers are saying, but vaguely. I was playing the CD in my car with two visiting guests from Brazil listening. They told me the music was not the best of Brazil, in fact one of them said the music downright sucked. Well, to my ears it all sounds good. But you know the saying – everything sounds good until you know something about it.
I don’t know much about Brazilian music, I confess. But I do know what I like. So when I first heard “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” by Michel Teló, I was instantly taken.
I first heard this song as I made my way on a bus to Southern Chile. Then I got to Argentina and I couldn’t get away from it. Uruguay same thing. It blared from buses, passing vehicles, stores, you name it. It was obviously a huge hit for Teló, a Brazilian singer-songwriter who has been performing since the age of six. This song has made him an international sensation. And now I am in Miami and of course we’re a little behind, but the song is all over the place! And people can’t seem to get enough of it.
Not since “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar featuring Lucenzo (handling the vocals in Portuguese) has a Brazil-linked artist struck it this big in recent times. Sure, Brazilians the likes of Sergio Mendez have been around for years, but in this age of social networks and YouTube, an artist can become an international sensation literally overnight.
Incredibly, there have been more than 330 million views of a single Danza Kuduro video alone, and when you add other views and other sites the number easily is a staggering 500,000 million views. I must say, Danza Kuduro, after more than two years from its release, still gets me going, even more so than Ai Eu Se Te Pego. Danza Kuduro is simply a brilliant collaboration and mix of various latin forces.
The war between the two countries this time is not about political differences or control of mineral-rich territories. This one is a war of words about food – and at its core national pride – that emerged and has grown nasty in the past week. And it’s Chile this time around that is coming out on the losing end, one might say taking heat and trying to get out of the kitchen – fast!
The fight started with a promotional video released by Chile to showcase Chilean dishes and food products to a Russian market. With neighbor Peru known worldwide as a gastronomic powerhouse, Chile has been trying to step out of the shadow and improve its culinary image. In the video, titled “Flavors of Chile,” Chilean chef Christopher Carpentier prepares several dishes with ingredients he touts as Chilean. One of the dishes known as La Causa – The Cause – and a cocktail known worldwide as the Pisco Sour, are presented in the video. Never once in the video does Carpentier say the dish and cocktail originated in Chile, but the fact they are presented in a video labeled “Flavors of Chile” sets off Peruvians, who have a longstanding beef with Chile for taking Peruvian – and Bolivian – land and occupying the two countries following the War of the Pacific. In that war, with Peru and Bolivia allied, Chile won and took copper and other mineral-rich territories. Peru lost whole cities and Bolivia lost several cities, too, including its access to the Pacific Ocean. Since that war fought in the 1800s and subsequent Chilean occupation, Peru and Chile have had cold diplomatic relations. Chileans recognize that many Peruvians don’t like Chileans, and it all goes back centuries. So when Peruvians see anything that smacks of something being taken from them by Chile, they get defensive.
Peruvians – with Peruvian chefs and food experts leading the charge via social and mainstream media – immediately accused Chile of trying to steal yet another thing from Peru, this time their longstanding traditional Peruvian dish and Pisco cocktail.
A sour note
Peruvians are indignant that Chile would promote to the rest of the world the drink and the dish as Chilean when in fact both were originated in Peru. The demand that Chile pull the video came almost instantly, and the Peruvian media wasted no time going out on the streets to ask people what they thought of Chile’s latest foible.
For the record, there is no dispute that the dish – made from mashed potatoes and garnished with seafood or other toppings – originated in Peru. There is debate, however, as to the origins of the Pisco sour. Peru maintains the cocktail was created in Peru, which has a port town named Pisco. Tour guides in Lima, Peru, will point out the place – Morris’ Bar – where the Pisco sour was supposedly invented.
Chileans – with Carpentier going before television cameras – shot back across the border that the video was showing a “fusion” of foods and flavors in Chile, not necessarily touting the dishes as purely or originally Chilean. Carpentier issued an apology of sorts, stating he wasn’t out to mislead anyone. But for the Peruvians, it wasn’t enough. Some still went after the Chilean chef with fervor and gusto. One of those Peruvians leading on that front in the cross-border food fight was none other than restaurateur and Peruvian cuisine expert Isabela Alvarez.
Alvarez went to the media to share a bit of inside knowledge about Carpentier. She said some three years ago he came to her for work. She offered him an internship in her restaurant, El Señorío de Sulco, where Carpentier, she says, learned the ins and outs of Peruvian cuisine. She said he became fascinated with Peruvian cooking and especially fond of La Causa.
“He knew the origin of these dishes, which he learned to do in our country,” she told the Peruvian press, adding that it was not by ignorance or accident that he had prepared the dishes for the video. She then went on to rip Carpentier apart, calling him “irresponsible.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Peruvian Society of Gastronomy, Mariano Valderrama, threw himself in the middle of the fight. He said La Causa is undeniably Peruvian and of that there can be no argument because the dish is strongly linked to the cause of Peru’s national independence. He told Peruvian press that however “it was gratifying to know that the Chilean chefs take our plates and help us to spread throughout the world.”
Valderrama explained that the name of the dish comes from a Quechua word and that the dish was prepared to sell and raise funds for the patriots who sought to liberate Peru from Spain.
In the video Carpentier also takes a stab at preparing ceviche, which is a dish found in many Latin American countries, but a dish nevertheless for which Peru gets high marks as the country that knows how to make a killer ceviche.
Valderrama told the Peruvian media that although ceviche is prepared in many countries, especially those located to the Pacific, in Peru it’s a tradition and done well.
Peruvian press has not let up – perhaps out to further embarrass Chile – by doing man on the streets interviews on the subject – stirring the pot.
Since traveling through South America I have gained a new appreciation for Reggaeton.
I love all kinds of music and there has been some reggaeton that I have enjoyed and even bought. I still love Angel Y Khriz‘s “Ven Bailalo”. I sing it all the time.
Reggaeton blends reggae, rap and latin music. The haters say it all sounds the same and its monotonous and a tad obnoxious. I knew there was much love for reggaeton across Latin America but I never knew there was such dislike for the genre.
I joke with my friend Kahyda Rivera all the time about her dislike for reggaeton. Kahyda, who is from Ecuador, doesn’t mask her distaste for the music. I thought she was an oddball – after all what Latina doesn’t love reggaeton?
Then as I traveled more I began to hear from others in South America who despise reggaeton. Even some young people who are the ones attracted most to the music say there’s only so much of it they can take. Wow. What’s going on here?
As I thought about it some more I began to realize reggaeton was suffering the same backlash rap and Hip-Hop had suffered. Across the world it’s not hard to find people who despise Hip-Hop. And yes, millions love it.
Another problem is that some people classify as reggaeton music that is not, as is the case with Chino and Nacho, whose “Mi Niña Bonita” is heard 50 billion times a day blaring from cars, from clubs, from homes, from shops, from every street corner. This song isn’t exactly reggaeton but because the artists are young and fit the reggaeton artist look they get labeled as such. “Mi Niña Bonita” is closer to merengue than anything else.
But hip-hop and reggaeton seem to elicit some serious hate in comparison to other types of music. I mean, I know some people who don’t like jazz but they don’t wear t-shirts or display the word REGGAETON on their Web sites with an encircled bar through it. It feels like the same backlash disco music suffered during the 1970s.
While my love for reggaeton was limited, it now has expanded. I guess being exposed to it everywhere I go does that. I have several favorite reggaeton artists and tunes, but my absolute favorite – the one that gets me out of my seat – is “Si No Le Contesto” by Plan B. It’s a catchy tune, alright. Not a day goes by without me singing a line from the song. Before “Si No Le Contesto”, “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar, featuring Lucenzo. Can you believe that one video of that song has garnered 159,243,835 views on YouTube? And that’s not even counting the other videos of the song, including remixed versions. “Danza Kuduro” recently became the most viewed music video on YouTube in Latin America. So somebody out there likes the genre.
Recently in Cuenca, Ecuador, I went out with a bunch of friends. We were all ready to go dancing. We, however, spent a great deal of time on the street trying to decide where we should go because some in the group wanted to avoid reggaeton like the plague. They were insisting on finding a dance club with a wide variety of music, and if that included reggaeton so be it as long as it wasn’t playing all night.
So this journey has opened my eyes to the love and hate relationship Latinos have with a form of music that’s all their own. And strangely, instead of making me like the music less, I like it even more.