Cotorra, Sexo y Mambo

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cotorra

COTORRA

[ko-toh-rrah]

1) Castillian word for parrot.

2) A motor-mouthed chickenhead.

3) Dominican slang for game, rap, the things one says to seduce.

see also labia or en ingles runnin’ gums

 

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Sigue El Mambo

This posting is in large part a response to Wayne&Wax‘s post on smut/slackness in dancehall music. Beat-junkie that I am, I have a far better memory for artist, title, label, BPM than lyrics. Still, I make it a priority to assess my selections and make sure that the music I play reflects my ideology. If I am to have the luxury of playing for rooms full of people I choose to at least attempt to balance fun and reason. If I really don’t agree with the content of a tune, it’s not getting air on my shift. I make it a point not to dance when I hear ‘Boom Bye Bye’ out. My own silent protests. You might remember me as the kid in class that opted not to pledge the flag but this isn’t me on soapbox-pulpit. I’m sure some of things I play and approve aren’t in someone else’s bag for various reasons. There’s plenty of fun bad-man, gun, and audio-porn dance tunes that the powers-that-be will stamp an advisory warning on and DJs will bang out this year.

But if we are to have real discourse on raw international music that promotes sexuality or violence and whether or not cautions should be taken toward audience, I think the following is a great tune to dissect.

A while back DJ/Rupture threw up a tune from Omega on the Mudd Up and mentioned this Mambo Violento movement out of the Dominican Republic. Although Omega’s band goes by the same name, Mambo Violento as a genre, is street-merengue defined mostly by hyper-rhythms, braggadocio and sexual innuendo. My first exposure to the sound was sitting in the backseat of a Dominican gypsy cab speeding home from a gig. Beyond the 200+ gabber-like BPMs what caught my ear about the compilation the driver was playing was the flagrant raunchiness of the lyrics.

Perreo is one thing but this was a whole new level of slackness in latin music. Here’s a really minimal sounding tune called ‘La Menor’ (The Minor) by El Sujeto that reminds me more of Detroit Grand Pubahs than any merengue derivative. In the tune, you’ll hear El Sujeto hitting on an underage girl, whose refrain “Es que soy menor, Es que yo no doy” translates into I’m a minor, I don’t put out. He spends the rest of the tune dando le cotorra and letting her know that her age won’t be a problem. My inner-feminist and pedophile radar blipped. Its now flagged as a don’t-play tune worth keeping in the collection for the when they book me to play at Playboy Mansion someday-

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At first listen, I really liked the minimal aspect of the tune as it was recorded. It sounds like it was made low-budget shitty and smells of dirty minimal electro ala Peaches, with a side of mangu. The strange keys at the intro and the guido-like hi-hat that comes in, all so left-field from their origin yet the roots still visible at surface level. Lyrically, my concern was that the chorus was talking about having sex with a minor which falls outside my personal comfort zone. Until you find yourself in a room sitting and conversing with a questionable couple and are forced to clarify where you draw that line for yourself, I think one could easily live without processing the gravity of this. The tune isn’t insanely offensive and talks mostly about the same old: Watch the bling, I’ve got an SUV, I’m not taking any back-chat so go tell your parents I’m gonna take you back to the cabin and beat the punnany.

Take a second and picture that in the context of an adult saying it to a fourteen or fifteen year old.

In a live performance of the same tune below El Sujeto and the band bring it back to the realm of merengue, but the first thing that I notice is the LACK of back-up dancers in micro-skirts that is common in a lot of videos for the genre. The girl’s chorus from the original is also being carried by a trio of three male back up singers. All male back up singers is normal but scantily-clad women are usually in the budget for these types of performances. I could be wrong here but my intuition tells me that though there’s a chance this was filmed on a morning show with some level of humility what’s likely is the artist knows this tune is on the wire and he balanced his stage act to compensate. If thats the case, respek mi doopz, balance is good.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK0ZFXQLcEI[/youtube]

 

Behind the stage persona, I bet this guy too loves and respects his momma.

The cultural age of sexual consent varies greatly from city to town to pueblo. Your position on this is as irrelevant as my position on this tune. Thats your opinion bruv, next caller….. It makes no difference if you think its right or not, we’re two thousand plus miles and several income brackets away from that truth.

Tell a single mother in the Dominican Republic that letting her 15 year old find a husband is a bad idea when she has 4 other kids to take care of and a 24oz can of powdered milk costs 240 pesos ($1 = 33 pesos). No mother wants their daughter to marry a skeevy guy but in villages where a college education and opportunity are hurdled by real-world hunger, the decisions people make are about essentially about survival. The main concern is that said daughter finds a provider, gets married and moves out, thus continuing the cycle. There is a great deal of room for improvement of worldwide cultural norms and we could do a whole separate post on that issue, but it’s a digression from the point I’m driving at. Don’t be that fool out there playing ignan’t shit and putting on dampers.

It seems that the IN thing right now is collecting and playing out international ghetto music, and little thought seems paid to the content and meaning of the songs. I’m all about getting peoples hands up, dancing and making out at a party but if you insist on co-opting cultures please do try and have some idea of what is being said in the tune. If you don’t know anyone who speaks Portuguese, try asking your friend that speaks Spanish to break down that kuduro song for you. There is a a great depth of cross-cultural significance to be found in Tego’s lyric “los negros se entienden.”

I grew up on the island and in later years, seeing first-hand the decisions friends and family made in terms of relationships I have been forced to internally process similar issues. For instance, the story of my cousin who at age 18 dated a younger girl, moved into her mom’s house, broke up with the girl and started dating her mom in the same house where they sold ganja to feed the family and a horse. Imagine my face as he’s explaining all this sitting next to both these women and factor in his older brother dating the teenage girl before he did. He had to explain it three times for my brain to process that in rural parts of the world and even rural America, stories like this pop up far more often than some would think.

Here’s a great rendition of that same tale as captured in a Perico Ripiao recorded by Luis Quintero y su conjunto Alma Cibaena so many years ago

Luis Quintero – La Mama y La Hija

If you’re searching for more current latinoid stuff check out recent gene-pool mutation Miti Miti based in Harlem for even weirder minimal merengue business.

 


POSTED IN: Blog

21 responses to “Cotorra, Sexo y Mambo”

  1. /R Kelly says:

    like my former under-age wife sang, “age aint nothin but a number”. great post!

  2. carlos says:

    great post gex!

    i personally think urban folks should never ever wag their finger at rural trends. we just don’t know.

    also, pardon the possibly elitist undertone of this aside, but i do a lot of the more quantitative brand of sociological analysis, and whenever you try to look at trends (specifically reproductive trends) and the decisions behind them, if you forget to separate urban from rural populations, you’re not really analyzing anything because the dynamics are SO hugely different in these areas.

  3. jill says:

    right on.

  4. w&w says:

    interesting stuff. thx for keeping the convo going and taking it into other corners. i know a lot of other DJs consider the same issues, which makes one wonder how much a DJ really does identify with the sentiments he or she might be playing (esp those of us who tend not to listen too closely to lyrics, at least for lexical content).

    for instance, re: that “minor” track above, what strikes me more than anything (certainly more than the lyrics) is that it’s an example of merengue in the fruityloops era. i’d recognize those presets anywhere!

    finally, totally wild that you finish with miti miti. i’ve been preparing my own post on them for a couple days now. better go finish it, quizas with this in the mix.

    ciao —

  5. Caro says:

    Hey Geko, appreciate the comments on the song representation/real life ethics business. But I wonder sometimes — back to the ol’ debate about gangsta rap — whether we might not mistake reportage/fantasy for advocacy. I don’t know enough about El Sujeto specifically to say, but I get the sense that a lot of these guys front a lot sometimes. Witness all the talk about who’s gay that’s been half about outing actual gays and half about calling singers punk bitches.

    Granted, last time I was in DR, talked to a friend who does a lot of work in the countryside and it’s exactly as you describe — overburdened families looking to divest of girls in the socially acceptable manner as early as it’s socially acceptable to do so.

    One minor correction: Omega’s group is called “y su Mambo Violento” but the genre is merengue de la calle. “Mambo” in this context refers to the speed of the parts that used to be the brass and are now in production subbed by synths.

    As for Miti Miti, I’m kinda sorry I missed their NY performance a couple of months ago in NY. Haven’t seen/heard enough about them to say for sure, but I wonder where they stand — do they adopt these popular sounds and modes of expression as unalloyed enjoyment of kitsch or as ironic, detached enjoyment of lumpen culture? Can’t wait to see what Wayne has to say about them!

  6. Geko Jones says:

    I caught a video of El Sujeto longside latin hip hop artist El Lapiz talkin shit using a full clip as a microphone. Later in the video you see Sujeto brandishing the hardware. Neither really seem like guys I’d want my friends or family around.

  7. […] DUTTY ARTZ » Blog Archive » Cotorra, Sexo y Mambo geko jones grapples with global gobbledigook and asks the smut/slackness question of some fruityloopy mambo violento (tags: DJ practice lyrics slackness sexuality merengue fruityloops DR NYC youth race urban rural morals blogpost) […]

  8. Nina says:

    Interesting, thanks for sharing.

    I have to admit, if I didnt have a 13 year old daughter I probably would be more comfortable with the song. Hell, when I was 17 and said I was too young, men would sing to me, “You may be young but you’re ready…”, from that Keith Sweat song.

    I’ve dealt with men talking “ish” to me since I was 13,nonstop blahblahblah. I accept it as just talk and nothing more.

    As a woman who believes that teenaged women (socially children, but physically adult) have rights, desires and drives of their own, I am on the fence regarding the age issue.

    Like it or not, it is possible for teen aged females to have fully consensual non exploitative sex. At age 16 most women on earth are married, and the way western countries do things NOW is an aberration. At 16 most girls I know were fully aware that they had needs and their sexual activity wasn’t due to male coercion.

    However, I am acutely aware that other factors come into play. Exploitation of young people by those older and more powerful, exploitation of the poor who will do anything to survive etc.

    And then, I’m a 37 year old woman who has dated a few men way younger than me. Some were poor,had no families; some I had the feeling had learned to use what they had to find older women to help them. I was and am torn, as I don’t wish to exploit some boy who has learned to prostitute himself to make it, though they ALL say/sing “No me importa que usted sea mayor que yo”.

    As a female, I was unaccustomed to having to think of MEN in terms of inequality of power, vulnerability, experience, age etc. I have a responsibility to be aware that my upbringing means the choices I have made were in an entirely different context, to not blithely say “Its all good”. To not listen to music only hearing what I want to hear, but to think how it may contribute to the problems of OTHER people who may not have the resources that I do.

    I can laugh off anyone singing to me that he wants to do me, despite me being 14. Maybe my daughter can. A girl whose parents cant support her and who desperately needs a home, may hear that in an entirely different way.

    Ultimate Nina Verdict? Song I’d play for myself and with friends who would consider it naughty and tongue in cheek. But not one I’d play around children.

    Sorry for blogjacking.

    I found your blog via Wayne &Wax. I’ll have to check out your other posts later.

  9. theantisuck says:

    GREAT POSTTTTT. you should post more discourse like this.

    I kinda agree with the comment that its sort of bizarre to blog on whether or not we condone the lyrics – its irrelevent to the fact that this is a situation that exists. Its happening whether or not we’re listening or approving & Poverty and circumstance, as always, obscure the possibility for moral judgements.

    but lets be a little bit real here..

    Sure we can come up with a million situations where statrape/marriage makes sense: no longer a burden on starving family, family alliances, etc (ie usually women taking the hit for the team) but according to every study ever women who delay the age of marriage are more likely to make informed family planning decisions, better able to demand her husband use protection, provide for her family, and maintain healthy independance – esp important in case of husband abuse or death, etc, im sure we all know this. So I AM gonna go on a limb here, ‘wag my finger at rural trends’, and say telling a single mother in the Dominican Republic that letting her 15 year old find a husband *IS* a bad idea – for all those reasons you mentioned (continued cycle, bad norm).

    btw saying we “disagree” with the lyrics does not = condemning people operating under these conditions. that said these lyrics do seem a bit lecherous and while interesting from a sociological perspective isnt something id nessesarily wanna groove to.

  10. M. Shadetek says:

    Great post gex, you went in! Hope to see another one soon considering that it looks like people are interested and ready to talk.

  11. carlos says:

    hi antisuck!

    yeah, immediately after i posted that, i realized there’s plenty of stuff in the country to wag your finger at (um…racism/xenophobia). i’m just agreeing that it’s weird to blog about whether or not we condone the lyrics, and pointing out that urban/rural distinctions really do mean something sometimes.

  12. Geko Jones says:

    Lot of a great insight and points of clarification on your comments here have inspired a new post I’m putting links on later today.

    Nina! always great for new angle. I enjoyed reading your responses on wayne’s inspirational blog post and look fwd to hearing more from you.

    Antisuck – right on the money. I’d just like to point out that the reason I bring the tune up is less about casting judgement on whether to agree or disagree with the lyrics or the trend. the question is whether I would air this out in a club setting and promote it which I wouldn’t and my reasons why. I do find it a very interesting sounding tune in the context that wayne points out- fruityloops-era merengue. I have deep rooted love for latintronica and this is a new trend I am keeping a close eye on. I do not condemn rural trends but I am aware of them and I think casting light on an issue and briging into discussion makes for clarity and much later….progress.

    Wayne: good ear on the fruit loops presets. I thought about going the technical accomplishment route with the post but thought this the road less travelled. I’m with caro in waiting for the Miti Miti post.

  13. […] After all that moaning I did in my last post, I wanted to point to the best blog post I’ve read recently. I really liked it because it got to me right in the gut. I’m the […]

  14. Boima says:

    There’s this dancehall tune that I love, that’s totally tounge in cheek… to me. But I wouldn’t play it out for fear of offending, because sometimes the club isn’t the place to really reflect deeper meaning into lyrics.

    This is a thin line we walk as performers in different contexts sometimes.

    I’m still waiting for the right context to play the tune.

  15. […] our own contexts based on our own prejudices. Over at Dutty Arts, gex reminds us once again that we should translate the lyrics of what we hear if we are to listen (and DJ) in good conscience. We should be active listeners if […]

  16. Eliel Lucero says:

    Although I am late to respond, after reading all the other responses I am deciding to share an anecdote.

    A few weeks ago I DJed a wedding with my great friend, and amazing DJ Reganomics. The wedding was between a Dominican Lady and an African American man. (I write African American and not black because most Dominicans are black anyway and I want to point at geographical/cultural differences.)
    Anywayz, although it was a joyful occasion, there was a distinct separation between the two families. So Aaron and I are trying to make everyone dance at once, and he succeeds during a wonderful set of hip to booty beats. He then plays Mentirosa (I think thats the tunes name)by Pitbull and maybe Lil’ Juan. People got off the dance floor and had dirty looks in about 30 seconds. I then took over the wheels and explained to my cohort that maybe a song whose lyrics say “that liar, give her dick ” (or balls, and maybe even eggs, depending on what Spanish speaking country your dialect is from) wasn’t the best idea. He was a bit embarrassed but I assured him that it was an honest mistake, and not too take it to the CULO.
    I play a lot of music in Portuguese, a language that I understand very little. If that day at the wedding taught me something, it’s that I should really try to find out what all my songs say. A)To avoid offending folks. B)To avoid being embarrassed and C)To make sure I’m not promoting underage beastiality.

    Themz is my dime and a half about it.

  17. Rupture says:

    thats a hilarious story! BUT Reagonmics should have known better.. cmon, Pitbull is a sexed-up BILINGUAL pottymouth.. his english is as dirty as his spanish

    similarly, playing Youssou N’dour im not worried about lyrical content, but playing funk carioca or Dog Murras, i am….

  18. […] been trying to get around to posting about Miti Miti, and since Geko Jones (notably, while making reference to the duo) and others have been wondering aloud again about the […]

  19. […] seems a good time to finally post on a connection that I had made, which may be superficial, but remains an exciting discovery for me […]

  20. lyrics says:

    thank you for sharing…

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