Can you believe it's once again time for Battle of the Bands? Yes, time is going faster than a cockroach scurrying across the floor and here we are for another music Battle. For anyone who does not yet know about BOTB, this is the event that takes place on the 1st and 15th of each month. Far Away Eyes at Far Away Series gets the credit for first conceiving this now popular event. Blogger Stephen T McCarthy maintains the participant list and answers your questions about the event--you can find his blog with a list of participants at StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands. This is not at all complicated: Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it. Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battles to vote on.
La Cucaracha (The Cockroach)
With the next presidential election still over a year away, we have nevertheless been inundated by the political race with campaigning, debates, and all sorts of politicking activities going on. There being so much focus on politics, I thought I'd turn to what might be the most well known politically related song of all time.
"Wait," you might say, "How is 'La Cucaracha' political? We used to sing this in school."
There are some things you probably don't know about this seemingly innocuous little ditty. According to The Straight Dope website:
"La Cucaracha" is the Spanish equivalent of "Yankee Doodle" — a traditional satirical tune periodically fitted out with new lyrics to meet the needs of the moment.Possible references to "La Cucaracha" have been found dating back to 1492 with the Spanish conquest of the Moorish invaders. The song later pops up at various times in Mexican history with lyrics suited to the politics of each era where it appears.
Most famously the song was popularized during the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1920, being sung by the supporters of Pancho Villa. Other groups also laid claim to the song changing the lyrics to suit the political messages that applied to them.
Many popular versions were recorded by American artists as well who took the liberties of changing the lyrics to a non-political message. Over time the song has become a cliche representing Mexican music. It's been used numerous times in cartoons and comedic film sequences. Often the song can be found on recordings of children's music as well as being sung by children at school.
I'm sure they don't sing the lyrics translated below which are the lyrics most well known in Mexico:
The cockroach, the cockroach,
Here's the Battle:
What follows are two very contrasting versions of the song for you to vote on. The first is an Americanized arrangement jazzed up by the ever popular Louis Armstrong. This is followed by a more traditional Mexican version by the incredible song stylist Lila Downs. Enjoy, compare, and then vote!
Louis Armstrong "La Cucaracha" (1935)
This artist probably needs no introduction since his fame is international and his influence on music is historic. He was an innovator in the Hot Jazz movement and was respected as a musical artist until his death in 1971, just a month before he would have turned 70. To this day Armstrong remains a favorite as has been affirmed by his appearances on other Battle of the Bands posts.
Perhaps unknown to many, Armstrong was a life-long user of cannabis or marijuana. He was an advocate of the legalization of marijuana. In a letter encouraging then President Eisenhower to consider the legalization of cannabis Armstrong stated:
"It makes you feel good, man...[it] makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro. It makes you feel wanted, and when you're with another tea smoker, it makes you feel a special kinship."Armstrong was arrested once in Los Angeles in 1931 for marijuana usage, but managed to avoid a jail sentence. The arrest did not stop him from smoking marijuana for the next several decades. Any references to his marijuana use were removed from his 1954 autobiography Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans, but Armstrong is reported to have planned to write another autobiographical book called Gage (his slang term for marijuana) which would have been about his life with the substance.
The lyrics in this version of "La Cucaracha" are minimal. All of the internet song lyric sites I found cited far different lyrics as reportedly sung by Louis Armstrong, but I could not find any corresponding YouTube videos where those lyrics could be heard. Still, musically speaking this version by Louis Armstrong is pretty darn good and a heap of fun.
Lila Downs "La Cucaracha" (2004)
One of my favorite female vocalists, Mexican musical artist Lila Downs exhibits an eclecticism that I highly appreciate. She surrounds herself with top quality musicians and chooses from diverse song choices and musical styles on her recordings. The music of Lila Downs is intelligent as well as intellectual, but never sacrificing the sense of fun and entertainment that good music should provide to the listener.
In her version of "La Cucaracha" Lila Downs makes reference to the rendition popularized during the Pancho Villa era while interjecting some more modern political references. The translations I've found of her version are a bit awkward, but perhaps that is the nature of the song If you're interested in an approximation in English of what she's singing you can visit Batlyrics or a number of other sites.
Whether or not you can understand the lyrics, hopefully you can still find enjoyment in just listening to the music. Take special note of the influences of Arabic and Jewish music in Lila's version. The violin and clarinet add a lot to this arrangement in my opinion. Mix in the Mexican percussion and harp with a very cool electric guitar introduction along with a brief rap interlude and you get a near perfect blend to turn a somewhat trite song into a musical masterpiece. Give this one a chance--I think it's worth a few minutes of your time.
Time to Vote!
I don't want to sound like a pest but I hope you'll add your vote to this contest. Which song version do you like the best? Surely you think one is better than the other even if you don't like either presentation as much as the original version. Judge what you hear in the above videos. Which version do you prefer? It's up to you to help determine the winner.
Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the version you chose. Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around. And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours
Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:
‘FAR AWAY SERIES’
StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands
‘YOUR DAILY DOSE’
'Curious as a Cathy'
Sound of One Hand Typing
DC Relief Battle of the Bands
The Doglady's Den
Cherdo on the Flipside
Jingle, Jangle, Jungle
Women: We Shall Overcome
J. A. Scott
Holli's Hoots and Hollers
Results on Wednesday October 7th
Find out who gets the most votes in my post of Wednesday October 7th. Please include your vote in my final tally. Also on the 7th I'll be joining in with the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Don't miss it!