A Polka by Any Other Name

los camperos

Tell me if this has ever happened to you.

I was in the “Bavarian” tourist town of Leavenworth last month, and Rick and I were strolling down the street trying to find something to do. There was lively Mexican music coming from speakers in the park, giving the tiny town a bright, bouyant feel.

Then I realized that we were in Leavenworth, with its bizarre Bavarian theme, so that must be German music they were playing. And suddenly the very same music felt completely different to me. Still lively, still fun, but completely square. It felt as if the weight of the song had doubled.

Have you ever noticed this? There’s so much similarity between a certain style of Mexican music and a certain style of German music that you often can’t tell them apart. That in itself is interesting. But the different emotional response to the songs depending on where you think they came from is even more interesting. You think you’re listening to Cielito Lindo, then you realize it’s the Beer Barrel Polka, and the universe shifts. One minute your heart is dressed in a skin-tight bolero jacket covered in sequins, the next minute – lederhosen.

Music by Craig Duncan and Mariachi Nuevo Jalisco.

~ by lolarusa on August 5, 2009.

5 Responses to “A Polka by Any Other Name”

  1. I’d need to hear those two musics to fully understand, but the underlying concept I heartily endorse. Just yesterday a friend complained that being sometimes forced to listen to radio instead of ipod causes unwelcome joy: clearly a closet pop fan, her body can’t help but move in time with songs that mortify her sense of self.

  2. The similarities are striking, and I had figured they were just a result of “convergent evolution”, but this article says the Mexican Mariachi music tradition, including the costumes, derives directly from German Polka styles: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_do_polka_music_and_mariachi_music_sound_alike

  3. The similarities in the two styles of music are also discussed in the about.com link in the post (http://spanish.about.com/cs/culture/f/germanmusicqa.htm). And it fascinates me that two sounds that are so much alike can be perceived so differently. By me, anyway.

  4. Weird the way the brain works. Have some sauerkraut (or was that Kim Chi) while you think this over.

  5. Thanks… Helpful post for my college assignment

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