Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mala Fe's Pluma Gay conquers Puerto Rico

Moldovan boy-band O-Zone probably never thought their cheesy Euro-pop hit Dragosetea Din Tei would have such an after-life. Then again who would have thought that a teenager filming himself singing the - hum - lyrics, would become the precursor to viral video mania?

In the meantime, a whole other type of 'tribute' was given to the song when a pair of comedians from Spain did a video parody for their television skit and titled it "Pluma Pluma Gay" ("Feather Feather Gay") eventually making it to the radio as a single and becoming a minor hit. The lyrics:
Fag who? Fag you? Fag I? Fag ha-ha (repeated ad-nauseum)
Strength! Toward the light...
If gay you are... Think about it
It's your life
And if they talk, let them talk - Let them say whatever they want to say

Strength, strength, much strength
How dark can a closet get
Step out of it, step out of it
and come here, your destiny is to be happy

Party, party
Feather feather gay

What does it matter if the kid is gay
You were born gay
Even if it costs, you have to shout it
Well, that was 2004. Jump to 2005 and find "Pluma Pluma Gay" at the top of the pop-charts in Chile and Argentina and spreading to other countries throughout South America. Ok, as gay-themed parodies go, that's pretty inoffensive despite the over-the-top stereotypes used for the video. But I though it would end there.

Well, at the end of last year I was forwarded an amateur video of Dominican group Mala Fe performing a merengue version! Soon, everyone wanted Mala Fe to perform it at every presentation which inevitably led to the official single and video (YouTube above).

This week, Mala Fe has been touring Puerto Rico and Hector Aponte Alequin of Primera Hora sat down to talk to Mala Fe singer Javier Gutierrez in an interview published yesterday:
Primera Hora: To be openly gay in the Latino art world, is it a problem?
Javier Gutierrez: No, it's not a problem. For some persons it can be, and they hide it, but for me it is not a problem. Gays have tremendous power to pull ahead in media... I say this because I have friends and relatives who are gay.
PH: ...but "Pluma Gay" has been seen as an insult.
JG: No, never, ever. I could never wish anything bad towards gays; that's the public that I love. I consider myself a daring artist. No merengue singer has ever sang to this community. I've received massive support from them, they thank me for remembering that they exist.
PH: Within the comedic chorus, the song talks of having strength, of living a life in a sincere way. To promote such a strong message one has to live it and believe in it. Do you identify yourself with the lyrics?
JG: (laughing) That was the goal, everything is not just a party, it's liberation. As for the other thing (his identity) I don't have an opinion but let's go back to [discussing] the song, please.
PH: What did you mean to say with such an album cover?
JG: I like to work with concepts. There, I look completely gay. It goes with the song like a ring on a finger, with me. One thing goes with the other. You see it and you immediately get the concept, it draws attention, it's what grabs you.
PH: Ah, so you realized that gays are great music buyers?
JG: Yes, in part yes. Why am I going to deny it? But it's not the only thing, it's a show of support, of showing solidarity with happy music, sending a message...
PH: Of vindication? Tolerance?
JG: Yes, but more of being present. Gays are not invisible.
PH: In the Dominican Republic being gay is almost a crime from a moral point of view...
JG: (interrupts) That's why I did it, so that people see that merengue is for everyone, the gays and the straights.
PH: But it's more than that because you strongly attack the closet and you include the topic of [other] artists. You invite other merengue singers to come out of the closet such as Toño Rosario, Peña Suaso, Eddie Herrera, Sergio Vargas... Is the intention to include something else that will draw attention?
JG: I mentioned them because they're friends of mine and the merengue-loving public knows who they are. It's to motivate them and to liberate them. If they are, well come out. Some have taken it as a joke, others as an insult. It's not a dispute or anything against them. I am not affirming that they are, even if there are comments in the Dominican Republic that say that some of them are.
PH: And are you worried that there might be such rumors about you?
JG: (burst out laughing) It wouldn't matter if they think that I'm gay, independently of whether I am or not.
PH: But are you gay?
JG: I prefer to leave it a question mark.
PH: Why? If that is precisely what you attack in the lyrics to your songs, and even stronger in "Lo Digo," which is a song of yours.
JG: (silence)
PH: "Straight" (heterosexual), bisexual...?
JG: None of those.
PH: Well, and what do you think of being in the closet?
JG: Something truly sad, because when one can express what one truly is, it's a sad and dark life.
PH: Is your life sad and dark?
JG: (laughs) Never, ever; the opposite, it's a party.
PH: And if you were gay, would you come out of the closet?
JG: Of course I would, of course, definitely...
PH: So, are you confirming that you are not gay?
JG: I am not confirming a thing (laughs and winks one eye)
PH: Why do you say that you are not confirming a thing?
JG: Because if I am, I'll come out. But for now I prefer that it remain a question mark.
PH: What do you mean "for now"?
JG: Well, I don't know what could happen in the future
PH: You mean, turning gay? Since this is what you say in "Lo Digo" and "Pluma Gay." There you insist that "gays are born and not made," isn't that the case?
JG: Yes, indeed, that is very very true. I can confirm it: [You are] born gay... (silence). What happens is that sometimes you realize things later in life. If it happens to me and if I want to say so publicly, I will say it.
PH: Or is it that with this album you are preparing a way [out], in the way you do in the song where in the end you shout "I'm gayyyy!"?
(laughs, groans, lifts his eyebrows) It could be, it could be... Leave it there, please, leave it there. The record, the record...
In an interview published today by Primera Hora,Toño Rosario, one of the singers mentioned in "Pluma Gay," says it'a all a joke:
"He's my friend," he says of Javier Gutierrez, "he's just joking."