Monday, December 04, 2006

Shakira - Latin America's very own Madonna !

BBC's "Top of the Pops" towards the end used to be so irritating. It was like watching a non-stop commercial for itself, what with all those flashing TOTP neon lights.

Speaking for myself, I was not sorry to see it go. The whole thing had become too narcissistic and self-congratulatory. But there was a bit of backsliding last week when, round at a friend's house, there was a half-hour programme billed simply in the TV guide as “TOTP2 : Archive chart music featuring the Carpenters”.

Well, that was not something this Karen C fan could lightly pass over. I go into a kind of reverie whenever I hear that warm honeyed voice. Her death in '83, when she was just 32, was a huge loss to music .

As it happens the TV guide was misleading: she "performed" just one of her songs, Close to You, somewhat static on a swing, looking a bit lost, and presumably miming. But incredibly it was for me the first and only time that I had ever seen her "live" on screen, albeit as archive footage.

Much of the remainder of the programme was bizarre stuff from archives, mercilessly ungrainy. There was Ozzy Osbourne in the 80s, when he was lead singer for Black Sabbath, with those mad, mad scary eyes. And there was Robbie Williams in his Take That days, barely recognizable, and a few others ghosts from the past (Adam Ant etc).

I was half asleep at the end when a video began with a noisy boxing ringside scene. The camera then homed in on a sultry peroxide blonde, alone in the corner of the ring. On close-up it was a doe-eyed, wasp-waisted figure in a contour-hugging bright red dress. For a moment I thought, cor, they don’t make them like that any more.

And then she began to sing. Oh my, how she could sing. There was feeling, passion, all of which was enhanced by the attentions she was giving (and receiving from) a bull-necked boxer. One moment she was a siren, the archetypal blond bombshell. The next she was in angelic Florence Nightingale mode, tenderly patching up her man after a punishing round. A memorable juxtaposition of roles and images, one might say. Well, if one's a bloke, that is, still missing his Pan's People (from the glory days of TOTP).
Louise (yesterday’s comments under my previous post re rubbish-tips) says of Shakira that she's the kind of female who makes her teenaged son’s face go red. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be that age !

By the way, bravo Louise for taking the plunge with your own blog, which I've added to the Escape Route in the margin.

Well, I hate to admit this, since it shows just out of touch I am, but having been smitten, I straightaway went into trainspotter mode, carefully noting her name (Shakira) and just one phrase from her song ( "a woman’s heart"). And so to Google, fully expecting to find that Shakira had briefly been something in the 80s, and was now doing the club circuit in Las Vegas.

So imagine one's surprise to find that she’s in fact what might be described as Latin America’s answer to Madonna (though maybe not quite so overtly sexy). Shakira too has been going for some years, constantly re-inventing herself. Again, the TV guide was misleading: what I was listening to was, in fact, her latest release. It's one she has done in partnership with the highly talented musician/guitarist Carlos Santana.

If you want to see the video, just make sure the microphone is switched on, and then click the following YouTube link. The clip starts immediately with that boxing ring side scene.

Don’t be alarmed at the word “Illegal”, because that, in fact, is the title of the song (honest). Whether YouTube is infringing copyright (or permitting others to do so) is another matter. I seem to recall reading about some disgruntlement recently in the industry. But lawyers please note: I for my part am now far more likely to add Shakira to my Christmas present list than if the video had not been available online .
Her rendering of the lines below reminded me of the force and defiance that Alison Moyet used to bring to her performances.

"You don't even know the meaning of the words "I'm sorry"
I'm starting to believe it should be illegal to deceive a woman's heart"

Needless to say, there’s an entry for Shakira in Wikipedia . And what fascinating reading it makes too.

She’s Colombian, although her mother is Catalan, and her father a Lebanese- Christian -American. As a child she was somewhat shy, and took up belly-dancing, an integral part of Lebanese culture, to build her confidence. It worked !
Her name Shakira means "grateful" in Arabic, and came down from her grandmother.

To begin with, she performed entirely in Spanish, and was almost unknown in the English-speaking world. But in 2001 or thereabouts she took the brave decision to include English numbers in her repertoire, writing them herself, would you believe it ? Wikipedia says there were initially fears she might have overreached herself. But look at the lyric for “Illegal” .
Better still, listen. Amazing. For a non-native speaker, she puts a lot of our home-grown songwriting "talent" to shame.

That's one powerful song she has written and performed there. But with her voice (and those looks) I’d be content just hearing her sing from the telephone directory.

Anyway, Shakira's Illegal has made an impression on this blogger, as you will have gathered by now. By way of reward, she's been awarded the first musical slot in my new-look, invigorated margin . No doubt she'll be beside herself when she gets word of this latest accolade.
With Google, it's possible to access video and audio clips of her earlier work. Some of them I found OK, but others, most in fact, were not my tasse de thé. But one's tastes in music are obviously a very personal thing. I just happen to like melodic, soulful stuff. One could be a pessimist, or maybe realist, and suggest that Illegal may turn out to be a one-off, compared with her previous work, perhaps the only one that will be remembered in years to come.
I once bought a Neneh Cherry album on the strength of just one number ("Seven Seconds Away", the one she performed with Youssou N'Dour. (The link is again to YouTube for a free video clip.) There were one or two other quite memorable numbers, like Woman, but none in the same league as that haunting Seven Seconds.

Shakira had a number 1 hit in both the US and UK with "Hips Don't Lie" (such a curious title! ). According to Wikipedia, Hips Don't Lie was THE very last single to be played on TOTP before it was axed. Which kind of brings us full circle!


Louise said...

My goodness, Colin, thou art smitten! Did you blush like my son?! I will listen to the music, promise, but perhaps tomorrow morning - my sons' study which seems to double as a boite de nuit has just started up and the chalet is quietly shaking at the foundations, so not the moment. However if she has sung with Youssou N'Dour, perhaps she isn't bad. I saw him in Carcassonne three years ago - love his music.

richard of orléans said...

Colinb, there is a bug on your site. It says '1 comments' (plural) when it should be singular, '1 comment'. Now you won't be able to see it because it will say '2 comments'which is plural so OK. But it's disagreeable to know it's there and it will come back on the next post.

ColinB said...

It's not just on my blog, Richard. It's the same on all Blogger blogs. Call it lazy programming on somebody's part, but the word "Comments" is there from the start, a fixture so to speak. Thus one reads "0 Comments", "1 Comments" etc.

I'm more worried right now about England's performance in Australia.

richard of orléans said...

Well coming from my point of view I rather liked the outcome in Adelaide.It was not just that England got panned and lost any reasonable hope of retaining the over publicised ashes. It was the manner in which it happened, humiliation.
Somebody actually said something intelligent. We should stop talking a great game and start playing a great game. It will never happen. Talking yourself up is image building and self glorification, something in which the Brits excel. Playing well requires hard grit and attention to detail. Ahem, not our cup of tea.

Shaz said...

Wow I was just going to say I liked the clip then i read the comments and im still smiling now all I want to say is AUSSIE AUSSIE oi oi oi. Sorry (giggle)

ColinB said...

Welcome to D&D Shaz.
Oggy/Oggy becomes Aussy/Aussy. That's very funny, and comes as welcome light relief. Do visit again.

Glad you liked the clip. I know (now) that "Illegal" was previously on one of her albums, and has only been lightly edited . Do you think it will make No. 1 in the Singles chart? Or will so many people watch it on YouTube that it will never register on the internet download sites. Maybe it was deliberate policy to release it just before Christmas, in the hope that the single finds its way into lots of stockings.

Louise said...

Just listened/watched the Shakira song - yes, I can see why boys (and men) go red in the face - sexy lady! Don't know if it's the video on internet but it looks badly dubbed. Must admit I preferred the music of Santana in the background, but his music is very memory-evoking!

ColinB said...

Re "memory evoking", Louise. Yeah, That's the curious thing about pop music. It creates little time capsules in the mind, capturing place and mood. I love "Seven Seconds". I just hate the image that goes with it - an interminable stretch of the A41 on my daily commute to some ghastly school at which I used to teach. Re your post today. Is it really "baited beath" ?

Louise said...

No ,it isn't! I'm not too sure about writing about a book I've read and liked and trying to convince you all out there to go and buy it! My only hope is that as I'm a book junky, there might be one that you like. So, I try it for a while and see if there is any interest.sgqsktjn

Louise said...

The secret code at the end of the comment is actually the word verification I had to type - very strange that it appeared on the posting...

ColinB said...

Here's the first thing you find if you google "baited breath" Louise.

You're not alone, it seems, in preferring to spell it that way, instead of as "bated breath".

Louise said...

Yes - sorry for spelling mistake - mind you perhaps people do 'bait' their breath = garlic, pastis, charcuterie - yuk!

ColinB said...

"Sally, having swallowed cheese,

Directs down holes the scented breeze,

Enticing thus with baited breath

Nice mice to an untimely death."

(See the worldwidewords reference quoted earlier)

ColinB said...

17th December

"not even Shakira can sustain her momentum at Christmas as new single 'Illegal' limps in at Number 34 in stark contrast to 'Hips Don't Lie' spending half the summer at the top of the chart".

Paul Masterton, commenting on first appearance of Illegal in Offical UK Singles chart.

These are early days, Paul. And note that Illegal is nowhere in the Official Downloads chart, probably because it's available for free on YouTube.