Home > cultural commentary > Feelgood music for hard times?

Feelgood music for hard times?

I do, albeit fitfully, try to Keep Up With Things. I get tired of doing the y6dsl;ltgg ting thing (i.e. beating my head against the keyboard in the hope that words will flow from it painlessly). I make a coffee, watch a snippet of TV or radio, or see what’s new on Youtube. And what’s new suddenly seems to be the lambada. All over again.

The lambada, for those who haven’t come across it, is a dance. It seems to have originated in the north of Brazil, and Wikipedia describes it as ‘generally danced with arched legs, with the steps being from side to side or turning, and in its original form never front to back, with a pronounced movement of the hips. At the time when the dance became popular, short skirts for women were in fashion and men wore long trousers, and the dance has become associated with such clothing, especially for women wearing short skirts that swirl up when the woman spins around.’

It became very popular internationally in 1989 when a French musical producer encountered it, returned to France, created a band (Kaoma) and put out a lambada style single sung in the original Portuguese – the video for which included some very suggestive dancing. If that isn’t a good enough example of globalisation, it then turned out the song he’d chosen was an unauthorised use of the translation of a 1981 song by a Bolivian band. Law suits followed and money changed hands. The actual song involved, in Portuguese, was ‘Chorando se foi’ (‘Crying, he/she went away’). Whether that was apt given the legal battles is of course a whole other question… but is seems Kaoma are still around, judging by recent Youtube video of them performing in various cities in Europe.

Anyway. The thing is, this was a song from the 1980s that suddenly seems to have been recovered, plundered, and given a new lease of life. In the last week or so I’ve been hearing techno and trance versions, quotes from it as four and eight bar breaks in the middle of other sings, and Youtube seems to have recent lambada-derived music from all over the place – including among other things a Russian version.

It is a known feature of global, postmodern culture that artefacts are taken and transplanted from one context to another, and the past is ransacked for ideas that can be recycled. I have no particular issues with the lambada being recycled. It was a catchy summer tune and while it’s not quite my style, it does have a certain something. I do have an issue with my brain putting on constant loop as an internal soundtrack but that’s not the lambada’s fault.

I do wonder, though, what drives the seemingly random processes of creative people selecting this or that tune for recycling, and what drives the fact that it’s suddenly taken off again. The best I can do is suggest that it was feelgood music in an era of economic hardship; now we’re back in austere times, feelgood music is suddenly important again and maybe the tunes from previous periods of economic downturn are the places people are looking for it.

Thoughts welcome…

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  1. Jane Sinson
    April 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    I enjoy your blogs as I enjoyed discussions with you in a previous life – debating psychology v sociology.

  2. April 6, 2011 at 11:16 am

    can you lambada? I would pay money for a video of that.

    I know what you mean about ‘keeping-up.’ It use to be easy for me, when my son was at home, but now that he’s moved out I am falling behind. Generally speaking, the last to know. 😦

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