Thursday, July 27, 2006

Matarile al maricon: Molotov at Webster Hall

Following up on issues related to homophobic lyrics in music:

I have yet to hear how it turned out but last night a group of people were supposed to hold a protest outside the House of Blues in Chicago where rap-performer and actor DMX was performing (as Keith Boykin reports in his blog). They were objecting to lyrics in songs such as "Where the Hood at?" and "Touch It" (sang with Busta Rhymes) which call in no uncertain terms for the shooting of gays [UPDATE: Here's Keith's report on what went on in Chicago yesterday]

The action follows ongoing efforts to highlight homophobic content in lyrics by popular music artists, most recently taking the shape of a successful effort by a number of bloggers to challenge the LIFEbeat foundation for hiring dancehall reggae singers Beenie Man and TOK to perform at a HIV/AIDS services benefit (btw - novalism has some choice words about media representation of the action here)

Now, if you remember, that particular event was supposed to take place at Webster Hall in NYC (LIFEbeat cancelled the show despite calls to replace the performers with dancehall stars without a history of calling for the death of gays). Now comes word that a band that also has called for the death of gays in their lyrics will be performing there next week on August 1st and this time it's not a dancehall act or a rap act but a Mexican rock band called Molotov.

In "Puto" (closest translation: fag or man-whore) from Molotov's 1997 album "Donde Jugarán Las Niñas," the band sings in Spanish:


So you are macho man, no? Ah, so macho, no?
Faggot, girly, you're rather a little male-whore, no?

Background chorus: Fag, Fag, Fag, Fag, Fag. Fag, Fag, Fag

FAG!! He who doesn't jump up and down
FAG!! He who doesn't shout and swear
FAG!! The guy who remained in conformity
FAG!! He who believed the official reports
FAG!! He who takes away our food
FAG!! Also he who covers it up
FAG!! He who doesn't do whatever he wants
FAG!! Born a fag, dies a fag

Love the killer
Kill the faggot
And what does that son of a bitch want?
He wants to cry, he wants to cry

According to Wiki-Pedia (which is not always trustworthy), the original album first came under-fire upon its release in Mexico for its cover which depicts "a young woman's legs seductively displayed in school uniform" (I might ad that the young girl is depicted in the front seat of a car with her underwear lowered around her legs). "Puto" did not actually come under fire until the band traveled to Europe where it met resistance from protesters in Germany (according to the Wiki-Pedia link) and Spain (according to the band's page).

In the past, Molotov have denied that the song is in any way, shape or form homophobic. In an article published in Uruguay's Ultima Hora on February 19, 2004 (which is no longer online), they were asked about the lyrics during a press conference. Band member Randy Ebright, who was actually born in the United States, was the one who came to its defense telling reporters that the song was meant to attack Mexican government officials and not the gay community. According to Ebright in Mexico the word "puto" meant "queer, someone who is fearful, who doesn't want to confront certain things."

"They cannot censure our presentations; the ones who censor us are radio stations and television. That is why we like to invite people to come to our presentations so that they get to know the group, the type of music we put out there, what topics we address and how we are in reality" (the argument that it's simply a protest song against the government has striking similarities to dancehall star Beenie Man's defense of his homophobic lyrics which, at one point, he said were not directed at gays but at Jamaica's Prime Minister).

The British monthly magazine The Economist certainly didn't make those distinctions when they published a piece on LGBT rights developments in Latin America back in December of 1999 that begun with an anecdote that involved the song playing at bars in Mexico City.

And then there are Molotov's fans which seem to skew towards the younger side and mostly male segment of the Latino community. I'm not sure they make those distinctions either judging by this, this, this, this, or the audience requesting that the band perform it here.

Back in 2004, some of us complained to the organizers of Central Park's Summer Stage after another Mexican band, El Tri, covered "Puto" at their presentation that year. After raising the issue, Summer Stage promised that they would be more careful about scheduling bands that promoted hateful violence.

If you actually read the lyrics above you can actually see how they do reflect a blistering attack on those who might be passive to conformity and official corruption. But, as a Mexican friend of mine told me, why is it that when bands seek the worst thing to call anyone they immediately grab for the homophobic language? Daniel, my friend, says that in Mexico it's directly related to macho culture and the fact that bending over is seen as the worst thing a real man can do (not that it doesn't happen in the United States as the DMX protest shows). But, whether we actually take Molotov's defense of the song at face value and recognize it as a critique on government, it doesn't mean that the crowds who have embraced the song haven't done so because it allows them to embrace the calls to kill a faggot.

Believe me, I have been at concerts where the song has been played over the speakers before the actual show, and the crowd reaction is immediate, aggressive, loud, violent and extremely homophobic.

Molotov will begin their 2006 US tour at Webster Hall on August 1st, 2006, and end at Austin Stubb's in Austin, TX on August 19. In between, they'll be touching base at Chicago (at the House of Blues), Denver, Los Angeles and Dallas, among other cities.


Anonymous said...

Molotov is a band who has based their (former) success in projecting an image of being rebellious, anti status-quo (attacking the government and Televisa, the mexican media monopoly) and of course, potty mouthed. Does that sell?, hell yes. It wouldn't be the first case of an artist to 'embrace a cause' for money. The teenager/young-adult market in Mexico is very profitable and easy to buy, just give them a trend and everybody follows. No wonder most of Molotov's followers are (were?) in that group.

So, them using the word "puto" (faggot) to refer to a "coward" is not a surprise for me in this particular context. I see clearly why they used that word, since that is the most popular curse word in the mexican lingo to insult a "coward". So, I think the writer repeteadly uses the word "puto" to make it controversial, not to bash gay people. Hey, The word "puto" needs to be bleeped out in public broadcasts in Mexico, so they included as many of such words as they could to reinforce their self-imposed image of mischievousness and sell more albums. It worked! many stores refused to sell the album, so as a marketing strategy, the band members would go in the streets and sell their album, "protesting" for the censorship.

Im menctioning all this just to point out how much of their concept as a band was based on pre-fabricated schemes, without them to be exceptionally talented or having a real statement or contribution to make.

Molotov constantly uses word play. The phrase "amo al matón, matarili al maricón" is a perversion from a very popular nursery rhyme ("amo a to, matarili rile ron"). There's many of these in most of their songs. Even the album title is a practical joke for another band's album name. So I think the evil behind this phrase is exaggerated.

So yeah, I believe Molotov IS guilty of exploiting and perpetuating the old stygamatas that gay people suffer in Mexico, but I think they're innocent of being a hate band.

Also, assuming that El TRI ( an ancient mexican Rock band who's been around since the 60's) is a "band that promotes hateful violence" and banning them just for playing a cover of the song "Puto", is just like assuming someone is gay for having an "I love Lucy" theme ringtone in their cellphone ( "I mean, of course he is!! right? I mean, why else would he do that? he has to be gay!").

Me? I am gay, and I really don't get offended by that song. I even moshed to it at the clubs in Mexico. I think it's actually fun. Maybe because Im mexican and it's part of my culture. And I want to clarify I'm not a fan of Molotov, I have no intentions to go see them either, but oh yeah, I'm going to see Gustavo Cerati at Summer Stage on August and you should too!

Andres H. (tocayo!!!!)

[ comments? ]

Anonymous said...

Puto is a song about politicians. Period. It has nothing do to with homosexuals with the exception that "puto" is the biggest insult one can make in Mexico. Some people, even Mexicans, more so MexiAmericans, fail to realize the context. Molotov music is full of word play, sarcasm, and way over the top offeniveness. Directed at all humans... But, Puto is about politicians... Leave it.

JR said...

I am extremely surprised by people's reaction to this article. It is outrageous how the argument "oh, they don't mean it as in faggot, they just use the word because in Mexico they are, you know, synonyms" seems be enough.

The argument that "matarile al maricon" is not as "evil" as the author portrays it dismisses the clear fact that it is calling for the dead of "faggots."

The author of one of the comments says that the fact that assuming El Tri is a band that promotes hate just because they sang the song is assuming someone is gay because they watch I Love Lucy. No, it is just like assuming someone is antisemitic because they say "Jews should die." You cannot compare a stereotype with a statement adopted when singing such hurtful lyrics.

It is quite impressive how careless we are in Mexico to promote any sort of adequate language and how the ridiculous excuse that language does not matter serves those purposes. If that were the case, then there is nothing wrong when someone says "don't be such a girl," using girl as a synonym for weak, because that is not "what they meant."

Unknown said...

Your translation is all messed up... This song is about politicians!

Norke said...

Totally wrong. "Puto" means "Coward" as Randy Ebright said, a person who doesn't have the courage to do things as they should be. And in his cowardice damaged somehow to others or himself.

"Come on man, defend your rights do not be puto"

Blabbeando said...

The lyrics do not stop at "puto" which, as many have said, could be translated in different ways INCLUDING fag (but also coward, sissy, etc.). They also include "marica nena", "joto" and "materile al maricon" which can't be explained away as simply as "puto". I stand by my translation.