TWAILR Mixtape: ‘En las Américas: Stories, Optimism, Spirits, and Justice’

Compiled by Ernesto Hernández-López

~ to resist by remembering history ~

1. Toto la Momposina – Soledad
Rejuntados en la arena, los recuerdos de un ayer
Unos murieron de pena, otros de hambre otros de hambre y de sed
[Memories of a yesterday, gathered in the sand
Some died of shame, others of hunger, others of hunger and thirst]

* Toto performed this song when Gabriel García Márquez (Gabo) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, before the Swedish Academy at the Royal Opera. It describes many of the places and themes in Gabo’s Nobel Prize speech, ‘La soledad de America Latina’ [‘The Solitude of Latin America’]

2. Jorge Ben – Xica da Silva
Muito rica e invejada, temida e odiada
[Very rich and envied, feared and hated]

* About a former slave woman in the 18th century.

3. Jorge Ben – Zumbi
Há um grande leilão, Dizem que nele há uma princesa à venda
[There is a big auction, They say there’s a princess for sale]

* About the slave resistance leader Zumbi dos Palmares.

4. Mestre Mauricio – Olha Negro Meu Senhor

* This type of song is from a “roda” [circle] used in capoeira, a brazilian martial arts/dance style. originally a means of defense, capoeira was developed by slaves and former slaves. Rodas begin with a “chamada” [call] and proceed with songs in call and response. This often retells history.

5. Papa Celestin’s New Orleans BandMarie Laveau
If she ever asks you to make her your wife
Man, you better stay with her for the rest of your life

* About New Orleans’s “Voodoo queen” in the early 19th century.

~ to resist by telling your story ~

6. Chavela VargasPaloma Negra
Ya no sé si maldecirte o por ti rezar
[I don’t know whether to curse you or pray for you]

* Vargas honestly and directly states how she feels, a common lyric trait for ranchera, corrido, vallenato, tango, son, bossa nova, and others music styles. What is uncommon for these styles, historically, is that women were recording artists.

7. Gal Costa – Meu nome é Gal    
Não precisa sobrenome, Pois é o amor que faz o homem.
[A surname is not needed, Because love is what makes a man]

* Gal Costa was a member of the Tropicália artists during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85). Many Tropicália artists were imprisoned, killed, censored, and/or sought exile overseas. Here, a 24 year old, Costa in clear terms describes her identity, rejecting racism and other socio-economic preferences.

8. Alejo Duran – Plegaria Vallenata
Por qué a unos les diste tanto, En cambio a otros no nos diste nada?
[Why did you give so much to some, On the other hand, you gave us nothing?]

* A vallenato about economic inequality and corruption.

9. Flaco Jimenez & Toby Torres – Mojado Sin Licensia
Estos gabachos son abusados, Perdi mi carro y me quitaron a mi Chencha  
[These gringos are sneaky, I lost my car and they took my Chencha]

* From the documentary Chulas Fronteras (Les Blank & Chris Strachwitz, 1976).

10. Gilberto Gil & Jorge Ben Filhos de Gandhi
meu pai do céu, na terra é carnaval
[my heavenly father, on earth it’s carnival]

* About Filhos de Gandhi [Sons of Gandhi], a Bahian carnival “bloco” formed by dock workers, who were inspired by Gandhi in 1949.

11. Lee Scratch Perry and the Upsetters – Soul Fire
I got soul fire
And we ain’t got no water

~ to resist by observing ~

12. Leadbelly – Bourgeois Blues
Home of the brave, land of the free
I don’t wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie

* About Jim Crow discrimination and racism from the white population in Washington DC.

13. Miles Davis – On the corner/ New York Girl / Thinkin’ of One Thing and Doin’ Another / Vote for Miles

* From the 1972 album On the Corner. Inspired by youth culture, Miles embraces funk, rock, tabla, electronic techniques, and more. The Guardian says it was ‘one of the most hated albums in Jazz’. 

~ to resist with optimism ~

14. Ruben Blades – Plastico
Oye latino, oye hermano, oye amigo
Nunca vendas tu destino por el oro ni la comodidad
[Hey Latino, hey brother, hey friend
Never sell your destiny for gold or comfort

* Preaches strength in unity amongst Latin Americans and contrasts this with plastic which melts easy.

15. Rumel Fuentes and Los Pinguinos del Norte – Chicano
Some people call me third world
But I know that is the real world

16. Bomba Estéreo – Soy Yo
Hago lo que quiero y muero en el intento, A nadie le importa lo que estoy haciendo, Lo único que importa es lo que está por dentro
[I do what I want and die trying, Nobody cares what i’m doing, The only thing that matters is what’s inside]

* A strong statement on surviving challenges on your own terms; a video about a young woman illustrating this as she faces her daily settings on the streets of New York city.

17. Baby Dodds Trio – My Indian Red
And we don’t bow down

* About the “Mardi Gras Indians” who retell the cooperation between Native Americans and ex-slaves. This song is an iconic part of Carnival in New Orleans and used by Indians before they dance, sing, and show their elaborate outfits in the streets.

~ to resist with spiritual awakening ~

18. Santana – Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen

* A mixture of blues and jazz interpreting a Fleetwood Mac song.

19. Celia Cruz y la Sonora Matancera – Saludo a Elegua
Eleguá, de dios preferido, Niño consentido,
Que sin su permiso, No se puede andar
[Eleguá, preferred god, Spoiled child,
Without your permission, We can’t proceed

* Describes offerings to Elegua (Yoruba god and Orisha), a warrior who likes candies and toys.

20. Ray Barreto – Acid

* 1970s mixing style that mixed styles (identities and beats to boot) – boogaloo meets psychedelic funk and descarga-ed jazz.

21. John Coltrane – Alabama

* Written in response to a Ku Klux Klan bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four African American girls on September 15, 1963.

~ to resist by seeking justice ~

22. Peter Tosh – Here Comes the Judge
Count 1 Robbing and raping Africa
Count 2 Stealing black people out of Africa
Count 3 Brainwashing black people
Count 4 Holding black people in captivity for more than 300 yrs
Count 5 Killing over 50 million black people without a cause
Count 6 Teaching black people to hate themselves

23. Yolanda del Río – Hija de Nadie
Solo cuento con un apellido, Tengo que agradecerle a mi madre
A mi padre ni lo he conocido, Creo que debe de ser un cobarde
[I only have one last name, I have to thank my mother
I haven’t even met my father, I think he must be a coward

* In Latin America, many cultures use two last names, one from the mother and other from the father. For many children not born to married parents, the child would not have the father’s last name. Concerns for property inheritance, race, socio-economic hierarchy, religion, shame, and/or politics usually motivated “no dar el apellido” [to withhold legal and/or de facto recognition]. Yolanda del Río describes this.

24. Leadbelly – Hitler Song
We’re gonna tear Hitler down
We’re gonna tear Hitler down someday

25. Peter Tosh – Equal Rights
Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice

26. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Slave Driver
I remember on the slave ship,
How they brutalize the very souls.
Today they say that we are free,
Only to be chained in poverty.
Good God, I think it’s illiteracy;
It’s only a machine that makes money.
Slave driver, the table is turn

27. Ennio Morricone and Gillo Pontecorvo – The Battle of Algiers

* One of many tracks from The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966), a film about decolonization and insurgency during the struggle for Algerian independence. It is set in north Africa and has been a global inspiration.