transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
In general, there were less musicians and vendors on Santiago’s buses and Metro than I encountered in other cities’ transportation systems. One exception is the scheming gringo shown in the video below – he may look familiar to my friends from high school.
I enjoyed the Taiwanese Embassy-sponsored jazz concert so much that I decided to attend another diplomatically arranged musical event. One Friday edition of La Prensa explained the background of the giant cube-like structure I had seen being constructed at the Santo Domingo Mall on my commute into Spanish classes. The German Embassy was sponsoring an Electronica Bonanza, “a new dimension of electronic concert in which the music and images envelop the sensory atmosphere.”
While the German DJs and various random images projected on the structure’s walls were enjoyable, I’m not sure they reached a new dimension. I enjoyed the Nicaraguan band Momotombo, complete with marimba, tuba, trombone, and guitars, the best. Pictures and video from the concert are here.
I found a frequently running TV commercial for a local Nicaraguan radio station to be quite interesting. The commercial opened with a scene of a crowd of people waiting at a bus stop, looking frustratedly at their watches (a situation that most Managuans can easily identify with). A new Kurgansky Avtobusny Zavod bus finally pulls up, and the petulant passengers board and sit down. The bus driver then turns up the volume for the advertised radio station, and the passengers start smiling and dancing happily in the aisle.
The use of the bus in the commercial was interesting enough, but I decided to do a bit more research on the song to which the passengers were dancing. The song, which I also heard on some of my daily microbus commutes from Ticuantepe to Managua, was Juan Luis Guerra’s “Bachata en Fukuoka.” Yes, that’s Fukuoka, Japan – the lyrics include the “kon’nichi wa,” “ohayō gozaimasu,” and “arigatō gozaimasu.”
To sum up, I was watching a Russian-made bus in a commercial for a Nicaraguan radio station that used a Dominican artist’s song that includes the Japanese in the lyrics, and for which the official music video has shots of the Los Angeles skyline and the Metro Gold Line. As David Harvey writes, “collage and eclecticism have recently come to dominate” in contemporary music (The Condition of Postmodernity, p. 301). The song’s music video (which also happens to involve people sitting on a bus) exemplifies the “depthlessness…in a whole new culture of the image or the simulacrum.” The split-second clips of freight locomotives along the Los Angeles River or Japanese characters on a storefront have nothing to do with their actual significance or meaning, but are instead used just as images.
I couldn’t find the Nicaraguan commercial online, but here is the official “Bachata en Fukuoka” music video:
The “Bachata en Fukuoka” video’s various transportation mode are nothing compared to the buscentricity of another one of Juan Luis Guerra’s songs from this year, “La Guagua” (“The Bus”). The refrain of the song can be translated as “Shift into gear and straighten it out | so that the bus will go in reverse!…| Bring me the maraca and give me a party | so that the bus will go in reverse!” The majority of the music video (embedded below) was filmed on a 1980s Blue Bird All American FE. Highlights include the bus driving backwards through the countryside, the driver eating spaghetti and shaving behind the wheel, a cow with 3-D glasses, a trombonist wearing an I ♥ Fukuoka shirt (in reference to the previously discussed song), and the climactic scene of party-goers at a concert for which the stage’s background is the silhouette of the back of a school bus. I’m not sure why Juan Luis Guerra is so interested in buses, but I’ll take the music videos for these two songs (both of which were on A Son de Guerra, the 2010 Latin Grammy Best Album) as a sign that buses figure prominently in the collective consciousness of Latin America.
Last week, students from Tamagawa University came to Swarthmore and gave an awesome performance as part of their Cherry Blossom Festival Tour.
Grammy-winning singer Estelle was at Swarthmore last weekend for our semesterly large scale event. I enjoyed her songs (though American Boy was the only one I’d heard before), and she had a great sense of humor. I think the highlight was that she invited a few students I knew from Haverford and Swarthmore up on the stage to dance with her – some pretty hilarious antics ensued…