Spain: Reggaeton, Minstrelsy, Internet Memes, Oh My!

The Spanish entry for this year's Eurovision makes me want to forego the usual "first voted in, first posted about" rule for my Eurovision coverage. And that's because it fits so very clearly in with all my other blogging interests.

Because "Bailar El Chiki Chiki" by Rodolfo Chikilicuatre is, strangely enough, en reggaetón. And because it raises questions about post-colonialism and the internet age.

Rodolfo Chikilicuatre - "Bailar El Chiki Chiki"

Welcome to the brave new world of Eurovision. The Spanish TV company TVE decided this year to make all the sent-in entries (numbering in their hundreds) available on Myspace for the public to select from. Fairly revolutionary in itself, I guess. But then a team of Catalan comedians, led by Andreu Buenafuente whose TV Show is apparently very popular, perfectly interpreted and exploited the new selection method and placed a song all the way at the top.

They did it by creating a meme.

Rather than market their song through the usual channels they worked very hard to ingrain the song in internet culture. The character of Rodolfo (played by actor David Fernandez) has his own web page, Twitter page and Facebook page, all very popular. Even more importantly, they encouraged people to create remixes and funny videos of the song, putting them all into a group on Youtube. And it worked amazingly well - this marketing effort (as driven by a rival broadcaster to TVE, by the way) has managed to push itself into the general Spanish realms of internet phenoms. There are the required teletubby mashups, Counterstrike machinima, etc. It's been watched something like a million times altogether in various versions.

On the surface this does bear some similarity to the memes created around El Chombo twofer Chacarron and El Gato Volador, that are very similar musically, thematically and as phenomenons. This, too, is a (no doubt loving) send-up of reggaeton and its themes. The timbres and the way of singing might as well have been lifted straight from El Chombo.

But obviously Rodney Clark as El Chombo is Panamanian whereas David Fernandez is Catalan/Spanish, making their position in the post-colonial world very different. I'm wondering how much of a difference this makes to the reception of the music - there's a real danger "El Chiki Chiki" will be perceived as racist against Latin Americans, minstrelsy style. I've yet to see any reggaeton fan's responses to the song, but that would certainly help clarify things.

One thing that speaks in its favour is that it seems to have been reggaetonned-up considerably during the selection process. The original, as appearing on Rodolfo's Myspace, is that worst-thing-of-all, a mild western copy. But somewhere along the way someone who knows reggaeton has added on a proper production with a real, prominent dembow.

I've got mixed feelings about it myself. I like the idea of the extension of the competition into the internet sphere and don't mind the resultant entry as a piece of music, even liking it a bit. But I am concerned about the implications of its position in the post-colonial power structure. How much easier it would have been if Fernandez, as suggested on another site, had been Mexican...


Unknown said...

Thanks, advertising gurus, for reviving the coon song fad updated for the XXIst Century.

Really, it's sad to see Spain falling for a hundred-year-old racist joke.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to realise that you have no idea about what the song 'baila el chiki chiki' is about. It has nothing to do with racism!!!I'm an Argentinian who lives in Spain and I haven't been offended by this song at all!And I think I can also speak on the name of many other South Americans. The song criticises easy lyrics which say nothing, which are absolutely empty, with no contents. Using reaggetton is just an option: would it be racist if it was a pop or rock'n'roll song? This song is an example of Spanish sense of humour. They don't take Eurovision seriously. They just make fun of stupid music with a parody. That's all!

Anonymous said...

This guy who wrote the article seems to be an ignorant. I agree that the song chosen by Spain is a parody of stupid-easy songs. I wonder if he can speak Spanish or if he knows a shit about Spanish culture and humour. It's sad to see 'high-browed' ignorants falling for a hundred-year-old lack of information and humour.

Birdseed said...

While I certainly have no interest in being cast as the "Minstrelsy!" guy (have you read the article?), construing this as not being a parody of specifically reggaeton is plainly absurd. This site lists a few of the Puertoricanisms and reggaetonisms present in the lyrics. Most prominently, of course, there's that emblematic "Perrea! Perrea!" shout which serves the dual purpose of being "insider-shocking" (cf. this) and thus quite funny and of definitely placing it geographically.

Anonymous said...

Nobody said that it's not a parody of reaggeton. But it's quite different to talk about a simple parody that to talk about insulting, ridiculising other Latin cultures. People in Spain also dance this kind of music in the discos and enjoy dancing reaggeton. People are mixing two concepts which have nothing to do with racism. Besides the original lyrics talk about Spanish politicians and the king of Spain. Spaniards are having a lot of fun with this song cos on the one hand they're laughing at themselves -very healthy, isn't it- and on the other hand the main purpose of the song is making fun of Eurovision. Spain doesn't take the contest seriously cos it has become a pile of crap. Most countries are taking to Eurovision groups and singers whose songs are interpreted in a hilarating artistical way -are they really artists?- whereas Spain joins the contest with a comedian. I think that the sense of Chiki Chiki is quite clear. Analysing this song as an attack to Latin culture or something the like is nonsense and ridiculous. Ask a Spaniard and check if he thinks the same

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