Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature the works of a ‘non-Latin’ artist via song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.
A few centuries ago, there was a saying among central Europeans: “Europe ends at the Pyrenees.” In plain terms, it means that Spain and Portugal, which are located beyond the Pyrenees Mountains, were not part of Europe’s mainstream culture. Iberian culture was just too different, too borderline, because of its incorporation of Middle-Eastern and North African elements –this goes double for Latin America, obviously. Central Europeans established these mountains as a massive fence, like the one some folks are trying to build down south.
Eastern European cultures, also located outside of Europe’s center, have many things in common with Hispanic culture. Goran Bregović is a notorious musical example. His music comes from a place he describes as a “terrible frontier,” where Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims and Jews have coexisted for centuries. He mixes a variety of traditional styles, with electric guitar riffs, a little bit of tango, classical music, and whatever he can get. Bregović became better known after his scores for several award-winning films, including Arizona Dreams, Queen Margot and Underground. He currently tours the world accompanied by his “Weddings and Funerals Orchestra” –they performed in NYC earlier this year.
Goran Bregović re-appropriates folk songs and tunes from his region of the world, revisits his own traditions, and reinvents them. The resulting mix is great. You only need to listen to “Ne Siam Kurve Tuke Siam Prostitutke,” to notice the similarities between the Bosnian Romani singing style, and the Cante Jondo of Spanish Flamenco. By the way, according to my Romani sources, that title can be translated as “We’re Not Whores: We’re Prostitutes.” In case you were wondering. Finally, Goran is an honorary Argentinean. Need I say more? Check out his interpretation of a theme that truly unites almost every culture in the world: “Alkohol.”