|No Woman, No Cry||Merengada||Salsa||England|
|Unchained Melody||Germán Silva||Salsa||Australia|
|Jugando Super Mario Bros||Calle Real||Salsa||Swedan|
|La Pantera Mambo||LA 33||Salsa||Colombia|
|You Rock My World||Berna Jam||Salsa||USA/Cuba|
|Hello||Berto La Voz||Bachata||Puerto Rico|
|Hoy Lo Que Quiero Eres Tu||Grupo Rush||Bachata||Puerto Rico|
|Stand By Me||Prince Royce||Bachata||USA|
|Una Vaina Loca||Fuego||Merengue||Dominican Rep/Jamaica|
|Sweet Dreams||Señor Coconut||Cha-Cha-Cha||Germany|
|No Pares Hasta Tener lo Suficiente||Los Miticos Del Ritmo||Cumbia||Colombia|
|Dominicana||Tego Calderon||Reggaeton||Puerto Rico|
Cover Me in Latin
Latin or tropical music is a large super genre that includes a range of sub genres like salsa, bachata and merengue. It is a genre of music that continues to increase in popularity as Latin artists get more and more international exposure. That said, Latin music can be as foreign sounding to a non-Latino as the Spanish language itself. The fact is that people new to Latin music and especially those that have been introduced to it through Latin dance may find the music a bit inaccessible. The rhythms are foreign, the language is foreign, the dance is foreign and all this can make the music unfamiliar and possibly overwhelming. This is where Latin covers of non-Latin songs find a very receptive audience. When a dancer enjoys the original version of a song they are likely to also like the cover version and be more comfortable dancing to it; they likely know the lyrics, they are familiar with the melody and are aware of where the “highs” and “lows” in the music occur. In this month’s blog post I have included a handful of Latin covers will a little bit of background on the original versions of the songs.
As the popularity of bachata continues to increase so does the number of bachata covers. Bachata covers of “romantic” songs are especially common. This is probably because bachata is traditionally a very emotionally charged music and it also helps that the associated dance is or can be very sensual in nature.[list style=”gear”]
- Hello: The original version of this song by the same title was recorded by Lionel Richie in the early 80’s. It’s a soft-rock classic that reached number 1 on the billboards in many English speaking countries.
- Stand by Me: Originally performed by Ben e King, this R & B classic was released in 1961 and became a number one hit in the USA and UK.
- Hoy Lo Que Quiero Eres Tu: A cover of an Enrique Iglesias song known by the ‘clean’ name “Tonight (I’m Loving You)”. It was a number one single in the USA and also in Spain.
Of all Latin genres merengue is probably the one most commonly used to cover non-Latin music. Its simple 2/4 rhythm makes it easy to mix with other musical styles, maybe too easy. Many mainstream pop songs have merengue versions (“Gangnam Style” anyone?), which more often than not are much worse than the original. I was hard-pressed to find many merengue covers that sounded better or at least as good as the non-merengue originals.[list style=”gear”]
- Una Vaina Loca: The original of this song, released in 2010, is Hold Ya by Jamaican reggae artist Gyptian. There are several remixes of it with this merengue version by Fuego (Miguel Duran Jr) being one of the most well known.
For the most part, the cha-cha-cha (or simply cha-cha) covers I have come across are pretty good. This may be because I do not come across many of them or because it is very easy to do a cha-cha cover badly (case in point “Call Me Maybe”). The market for good cha-cha music is unfortunately small. However, the market for bad cha-cha covers is thankfully much smaller.
- Clocks: The original and the cha-cha cover are both by the English band Coldplay. The cha-cha version was recorded for the Rhythms Del Mundo album, which contains a large selection of western songs done in a variety of Latin styles. As a side note, the album was originally made to raise money for Artists’ Project Earth, a climate change awareness and disaster relief charity
- Sweet Dreams: This euro-pop song was first recorded by the English group the Eurythmics in 1983. Probably their most famous song, it made it up to number 3 on UK music charts and number 15 on US charts. The artist that does the Cha-Cha cover, Señor Coconut, has done a bunch of other Latin covers of westerns songs. This is probably one of his better ones.
As incredibly popular as cumbia is I have only come across a handful of cumbia covers. This may have to do with the fact that the market for cumbia in North America is relatively small. Also, a true cumbia needs accordion and most western songs just sound wrong when done with an accordion.[list style=”gear”]
- No Pares Hasta Tener lo Suficiente: The original version of this song is Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. This disco/funk track was released back in 1979 and like many of Michaels early singles, was a number one hit worldwide. The cumbia version is without vocals, which is probably a good thing, and was released in 2012 by the fantastic modern cumbia band, Los Miticos Del Ritmo, based in Bogota, Colombia.
Reggaeton has its roots in sampling other musical styles (see Reggaeton – The Beginnings) so it’s not hard to find a reggaeton song that at the very least samples another song.
- Dominicana: This song by Tego Calderon though not exactly a cover, draws heavily from the El Gran Combo salsa classic “Ojos Chinos”. It may not as dancable as the original but it is still a pretty decent reggaeton song.
Considering its international popularity it is no surprise that there are a fair number of salsa covers. Add to this the fact that salsa dancing is very popular in countries where people don’t traditionally speak Spanish and you end up with a receptive audience for salsa covers of popular (often western) songs.[list style=”gear”]
- No Woman, No Cry: originally by Bob Marley this reggae classic was released in 1974. Merengada the English band that did this salsa cover is only one of many to do a version of the song. From Nina Simone to NOFX the song has been a popular choice by artists looking to benefit for Bob Marley’s popularity.
- Unchained Melody: The most well-known version of this song is the one by the Righteous Brothers released in 1965. However, the song was originally written and recorded in 1955. Unchained Melody is apparently one of the most covered English songs of all time with this salsa version being one of the more recent covers, recorded in 2011.
- Jugando Super Mario Bros: Not a cover of a another song per se but it is inspired by and draws sound effects and melodies from the hugely popular Nintendo game Super Mario Brothers. It is a pretty good salsa too considering it is based on the music of an 8 bit video game and for anyone who grew up in the 80’s it is also a bit nostalgia trip to listen to.
- La Pantera Mambo: The inspiration for this song comes from Harry Mancini’s Oscar nominated “Pink Panther Theme”, which unsurprisingly was the theme song for the Pink Panther movie series. The original version is an easily recognizable saxophone driven instrumental composition. True to its name, La Pantera Mambo is a much faster and jazzier version with the addition of lyrics. The song lends itself surprisingly well to salsa.
- You Rock My World: Another Michael Jackson classic, the salsa version of the song is a remix by the Cuban DJ Berna Jam. The vocals are all Michael with Berna Jam adding the salsa instrumentation. It’s a fantastic cover, one of my favourites (the timba piano is awesome) though I suspect it was not condoned by MJ or his estate as I have not seen it available for purchase or download anywhere.
Hasta la próxima