The dignity of pop

The trail left behind by Amy Martin calls for a re-thinking of the dignity, the poor-but-honest image of Spanish pop

The Carlos Mulas-Irene Zoe Alameda affair has triggered an avalanche of information, not much of it directly musical. The Fundación Ideas paid, at least, for several people to visit New York and film three videos for the group Reber Band - the star of these productions being "Android Galatha," another avatar of Zoe Alameda (alias Amy Martin), wife of the director of the foundation.

This is interesting, in that it exposes a self-serving myth. Spanish pop and rock like to flaunt their moral superiority to classical music and opera, which are always sucking on the tit of public subsidies. Pop and rock can walk tall, they said. We don't depend on the taxpayer's money. We work for a living.

What went unmentioned were the iffy interests. It was usual to hear cloudy rumors about, for example, under-the-counter subsidies to labels that published Catalan rock, or the Castilla y León regional government's sponsorship of a former bolero group who graduated to pop, and whom towns governed by the Popular Party were forced to hire for their local festivals.

On the basis of their principles, musicians would do well to shun the embrace of power. Politicians, too, ought to resist the temptation of the photo opportunity

The trail left behind by Amy Martin calls for a re-thinking of the dignity, the poor-but-honest image of Spanish pop. We looked down on the way the politicians clung to their prerogatives and distributed their alms, their grubby meanness. And their brazenness: imagine a social-democrat think-tank paying for a techno group. The videos - what I was able to see of them before they were taken down from the internet - suggested demos for The Eternal Wannabes of Spanish Pop. But they were withdrawn, as if they were something to be ashamed of. Or were they?

I find an interview with Irene/Galatha on Radio 3. She speaks of commitment to solidarity, collective protest, hints of a cosmopolitan lifestyle (Sweden, Germany, the States), but never mentions the Instituto Cervantes or the Socialist Party's Fundación Ideas.

Even a beginner in the music business knows you shouldn't boast of political contacts. But at the first opportunity, most musicians dance to the music played by the politicians. Their hypocrisy can be monumental. Remember Música para Vivir 89, in Barcelona? It was a festival with an anti-drug message organized by a foundation, and it featured the cream of Spanish pop. The ostentatious consumption of illicit substances in the dressing rooms was an infantile poem of cynicism.

On the basis of their principles, musicians would do well to shun the embrace of power. Politicians, too, ought to resist the temptation of the photo opportunity. This is useless advice: the erotic call of fame is too strong, like the pull of the magnet, that brings you together though you don't know each other from Adam.

But both sides will have time for regrets. In the recent autobiography of Txus di Felatio, the leader of Mägo de Oz, you can find a little-known anecdote from this group's embarrassing visit to the prime ministerial mansion in 2004.

On recognizing Txus, who then favored a pirate-style bandana look, Prime Minister Zapatero mentioned that his daughters were Mägo fans and would like a photo. The kids then appeared, and affably, Txus sat one of them on his knee and asked about her favorite song - expecting she would say Costa del Silencio (Coast of Silence) or Fiesta Pagana (Pagan Feast). I transcribe the text:

"And she says, 'No, no. The one I like best is Polla dura no cree en Dios [Hard Pecker Don't Believe in God]'.

"And her dad says, excuse me? But then Alejandro Sanz stepped in and saved the day. 'Nothing, nothing, it's kid's stuff.' And there I was, bright red, grinding my teeth in shame."

A lost opportunity: Zapatero ought to have had a chance to learn about what his daughters were listening to. And Txus, who is more sensible than he looks, might have explained to him that his own iconoclastic profession, like those of others, consists of voicing the verbal audacities his audience wants to hear.


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