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Snapsongs: “Bamboleo” by The Gipsy Kings

Friday 8 November 2013 - Filed under Snapsongs

Five bored young men, stuffed into a borrowed BMW, driving around Austin, Texas in the late afternoon in the late autumn. Windows down, air cool, sunroof open. I can’t remember if it was a Thursday or Friday, but nothing was going on, nothing was on the slate, nothing was happening. Nothing except burning gas and talking smack.

It is through situations like these that interesting things happen. It is my own personal theory that one does not need to posit alien civilizations or occult powers for the construction of the pyramids or of the Nazca lines; you simply needed to get a group of young punk Egyptians or Incas together with no cable television or Internet MMORPGs, and someone will be bound to suggest a crazy, yet compelling idea. None of us built any obelisks or crop circles that night, but we managed not to get drunk and wrap the car around a telephone pole, which is probably half the battle right there.

One of my personal entertainments at the time was to load up some Tri-X into my Minolta SRT-202 and go shoot stuff. As I didn’t want to be pretentious and artistic and annoying, I referred to such photographs as “Stupid Pictures”. At a remove of some twenty  years, after wrestling with and winning over the demons of doubt, fear and self-deprication that kept me from accepting my artistry well into my thirties, I sometimes wish I’d been more assertive with my impulses. However, I look at the book of negative sleeves I amassed during that time and realize, regardless of the public face I put on it, I was still burning film at a regular rate. I’d done it before with my friends, and this time we decided to do it again. Except we wouldn’t do it in Austin, we’d do it somewhere else. Where? Anywhere. Uh–how about Corpus Christi? Who knew what there’d be to see in a small Texas coastal city? Well, why not?

So we went to get my camera and lenses and some film, and we set out for the coast. This is about a four-hour drive from Austin, so we’d be in it for the long haul. As we rounded the highway cloverleaf from the 35th Street entry (last seen in this entry), the driver popped in one of his favorite tapes to get things rolling. It was the Gipsy Kings.

At that time, the Gipsy Kings, a loose family of Roma from the Spanish/French border who played an engaging quasi-flamenco style, had just blown up in America and were riding the wave of Adult Contemporary airplay. We’d gravitated to the music because of its energy, multi-layered acoustic guitars, and seductive foreign-language vocals. It was pretty much party music for the more intellectual set. And whoever programmed their first album made the perfect choice for the first cut. Using Bamboleo was pure genius.

The intro was delicate fingerpicking, followed by fast-paced, assertive unison guitars and powerful singing. That was all fine and dandy. But it was the pause before the chorus that really sold the song. The verse would end, things would sound normal, then a violent strumming would announce a break: silence. Then the whole band (or most of the band, but I’m sure all of them could sing in some capaciy) would belt out the chorus, along with the bass player waking up and giving us a nice arpeggio to bounce around to. And bounce around we did.

So we merged onto the freeway with the entire car screaming itself hoarse in Andalusian Spanish and bopping as best we could behind our seatbelts. Our night was secure, we would drive across the south Texas coastal plain and back before morning, stopping to take staged artistic photos whenever possible.

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2013-11-08  »  Edward Semblance