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Musical Guilty Pleasure: El Colesterol

I would like to share another musical guilty pleasure with you, which I just discovered today in Atlanta. My job brings me to Atlanta on occasion to visit clients, and there’s definitely a larger Mexican population there than the DC area. One benefit of this is the food– while I’ve not yet had any autentico tacos, I have seen documented evidence of tacos al pastor!! This is very exciting to me.

Equally exciting is the music– I try to take advantage by tuning in to a Mexican-style radio station while I’m zipping around in my tiny rental car. While the prevalence of norteña does sometimes push my ear drums to their limits, I usually hear enough good songs to make it worthwhile. Which brings to me to this afternoon, when I came across a gem that I’d never heard before.  Usually I can barely make out the lyrics to songs in English (we’re talking “hold me closer Tony Danza“-style, folks), much less songs in Spanish.  But today I was struck by a catchy tune that kept mentioning chaparritas (the term witty strangers constantly used to refer to me in Mexico) and chicharrones… and the refrain seemed to be “Me sube el colesterol” (my cholesterol is rising). Huh? I was intrigued.

I jotted down the lyrics at a stop light, and checked things out tonight on the Google.  The song is indeed entitled “El Colesterol” by Fito Olivares, who hails from Tamaulipas. I wouldn’t exactly call this an award-winning song, but there are two reasons to listen/watch:

  1. the lyrics are at least semi-amusing
  2. the video combines wearing horrible suits while dancing (and by “dancing” I mean “swaying back & forth like you’re in junior high”) with what feels like a poorly-made documentary of one man’s visit to a low-end hospital

Anyway, I know this is song is from 8,000 years ago but for those like me who are a little behind the Mexican music times, I present “the official video” of El Colesterol:

If you find lyrics tricky like I do, check them out here or watch the subtitles in Spanish on this YouTube video. For you non-Spanish speakers, the song’s basically about how this guy’s doctor tells him he’s fat, his cholesterol’s too high, and he needs to cut out sweets/sugar/flour/fat. AND THEN he gets home & his honey calls out from the kitchen, “Do you want some fried pig skin, a piece of ham, or some fried chicken, love?” So he explains how his cholesterol’s rising & his doctor has ordered him to put on his belt….no pig skin for him!

Even if you don’t find the song entertaining, it should win some sort of award for Awkward Music Video.  Some portions feel like Grey’s Anatomy… if they filmed Grey’s Anatomy in a tired office building with doctors who, instead of constantly having affairs with each other, moonlight as cumbia band members. Replace secret trysts in the break room with secret saxophone practice sessions. Someone needs to write this pilot & send it to NBC….or Univision… We’re sitting on a goldmine!

Your own…personal…taxista…

I have a regular taxista who I call to get a ride home on days that I work out of the office. Her name is Guadalupe, and she is a lovely, middle-aged Mexican with a son who lives in Cancun. She became my go-to taxista after I broke up with my prior taxista, Carlos, when he stopped answering my calls. (what is this, “he’s just not that into you”, taxi-style???)  Anyway, Guadalupe and I get along well because she a) is nice and amusing but doesn’t take any crap from anyone, b) doesn’t drive like a crazy person, and c) has a car with enough leg room for me and no funny-scented air fresheners. Our conversations are generally fairly smooth because I can practice my Spanish and at times, she her English, so we usually can figure things out between the two of us.

So today, Guadalupe & I were driving home when she suddenly remembered something to ask me. (below conversation all in Spanish)

G: “Oh! I have something I need help on from an English speaker and you speak English. Obviously!!
J: “Uh, yes…?”
G: “I have a song that I really like, but I don’t know what it means. Maybe if I play it for you, you can tell me what it is about?”  [proceeds to roll up car windows to create the proper listening environment] “Maybe you have heard it?”
J: [now filled with curiosity of what this magical song could possibly be] “Of course! Or at least I will try!”

G: [proceeds to carefully select song from CD player]

Classic hits of Mexico...thank you Depeche Mode

Classic hits of Mexico...thank you Depeche Mode

Car Audio System: “bumm bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Your own…bup bumm bup Personal…bup bumm bup Jesus…bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who cares…

J: “Ahhh siiii, es una canción muy buena!!” I crowed in reinforcement, thrilled to learn that this most favorite song of hers was a classic Depeche Mode hit from the ’80s.  I wasn’t quite sure whether she was looking for a literal translation or greater meaning, so I started loosely translating…

J: “Alguien quien oye tus… pues, como se dice cuando hablas con Dios?”    (Someone who hears your… well, how do you say when you talk with God?)
G: “Oraciones.”  (Prayers.)
J: “Si! Está hablando sobre alguien quien oye tus oraciones y te cuida.”  (Yes! It’s talking about someone who hears your prayers and cares for you.)

I explained that although I had heard this song many times, I had never really thought about what it means… We agreed it was best to restart the song. After a full run through, I made a valiant attempt to explain the meaning of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in Spanish  (sounds like a bad dream from a Spanish lit class), focusing on the fact that despite the frequent use of the word “Jesus”, “prayer” and “faith”, Depeche Mode should not be classified as a religious band. :)

J: “Pienso que la canción sea sobre otra opción en vez de Jesus para ayudarte cuando estás solo y necesitas soporte… otra opción como música u otra persona…? Que puedes tener algo personal para “reach out”…?”  (I think the song is about another option instead of Jesus to help you when you are alone & need support…another option like music or another person? That you can have something personal to reach out to?)

I realized that even in English, I did not have a lot of insight into Depeche Mode’s thought processes. However, Guadalupe seemed to be pleased with my vague ideas, and we briefly discussed the differences between religious things and spiritual things, as evidenced by this “Personal Jesus” that one might have…

I reckon at this rate, it is only a matter of time before I am teaching a comparative religion class in Spanish at the local community college… 😉

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