It’s summer, 2012. I’m skinny, overconfident, slightly sweaty, and DJing at a dark tiny bar tucked in the main drag of Burlington, Vermont. I have a bluish pale glow that can only be achieved by tirelessly sifting through club edits on my laptop for hours on end, in preparation for my sonic onslaught. I think I’m on the cutting edge of electronic music – my obsession with labels like Main Course, Night Slugs, Unknown to the Unknown, and Hot Flush Recordings dictate the pounding, primarily percussive instrumental mix to which I’ve subjected all seven people at the bar. One over -inebriated patron, flailing around the dance floor, shares my enthusiasm for the cataclysmic set I’m laying down – together, we’re alone in our appreciation. A group of young women wearing sparkling birthday paraphernalia confidently enter the bar looking for a fun time, and immediately recognize their mistake. One of them jumps up to the DJ booth, loudly whispering in my ear “can you play something with lyrics?”
Flash forward to present day. I live in LA, am still very pale, and I think about this moment often. What a strange, general, yet oddly informative request. Regardless of how tight my mixes sounded that night or however hard I thought I was killing, my rhythm - centric DJing seemed to lack a basic human element, rendering my selections cold and un relatable. Taking her request literally, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much what the lyrics actually were; the mere addition of any voice blaring through the sound system would suffice. The presence of vocals provides our lizard brains with something comforting and familiar to latch onto.
She was right, and if she knew that night would have inspired a blog post for an online radio series eight years in the future, maybe she would have cut me some slack, rather than commenting on how much my DJ set sucked .
To that end, the theme of this episode is Music in a Non - English Language. It's focus is on the implicit ideas communicated through the sound and timbre of vocals and lyrics, as opposed to the lyrics themselves . All of our guests orbit this thesis with their selections and descriptions, although perhaps Brooklyn - based artist Sinkane mostly clearly articulates the concept through his account of Jorge Ben’s “Eu Vou Torcer” :
“I feel like I connect to it, even though I don’t know Portuguese... You can understand the sentiment and the meaning of it even though you don’t understand the language.”
Whether or not you understand specifically what a song is about, the intended feeling is conveyed all the same. This iteration of Message Machine features twelve songs that run the gamut of emotions, from feeling like a badass to suffering from heartache, sung in a variety of languages from French to Farsi. I have a detective’s hunch you’ll find something you like. Whether or not you have a Rosetta Stone account, I’m certain this episode will give you all the feels. In fact, if you feel so compelled don’t be afraid to tell me about it on Twitter or Instagram -- you might just end up on my Message Machine.
Until next time...