If there was one thing I really wish I could do, it would be to dance at least reasonably well.
I enjoy listening to all sorts of dance music, but on the rare occasions I get on a dance floor, I feel like I’ve been choreographed by some unholy combination of Ann Widdecombe, John Sergeant and Bridget Jones. I don’t tend to stay there long…
But I’m in love with the idea of being able to dance and I admire those who can.
With me, it’s not a lack of musical ability. I used to play piano and I can keep time more than competently. It’s just moving my limbs and body in time to the music that’s the problem.
Perhaps my musical ability makes it worse as I realise how out of time I am, which makes me self-conscious whereas if I was musically-inept I might not realise how bad I was and dance away quite happily in a world of my own.
Latin music in particular makes me want to dance. Perhaps I’ve got a secret desire to live my life dressed almost entirely in sequins…which is what Latin music tends to mean in the UK. I’ve a feeling they go in for sequinned outfits and feather headdresses much less in South America.
But for a Brit, we can’t help thinking of the ballroom at Blackpool Tower and some tightly choreographed routine on “Strictly” (“Dancing with the Stars” elsewhere in the world…) when Latin dancing is mentioned.
As well as not being able to dance, I don’t speak Spanish either, which also restricts my understanding of the lyrics of the songs I’d like to dance to a little. But that doesn’t seem to matter. I enjoy listening to the music and tapping my fingers on the steering wheel as I drive along even if I don’t understand the words.
Latin American music always makes me feel like it’s a warm summer’s day, even when it’s the middle of winter. For a long time I kept a double-CD of Latin dance tracks in the car…yes this was before streaming caught on…and after I’d de-iced the car on a particularly cold winter’s day, I’d often pop one of the Latin dance CDs in the CD player until I felt warmed up on the inside.
Not only do I like the music, Latin dance music seems to come with some sort of magic insulating qualities into the bargain. It was almost as effective at warming me up as the heated seats I had in a later vehicle.
Sometimes that works the other way round too. At the first hint of sunshine in the UK, radio stations start lining up summer dance tracks to treat us with.
And so it was last week when I was in an especially un-glamorous part of the East Midlands (sorry East Midlands — there are nice places there too). “Cuba” by the Gibson Brothers came over the speakers in the car, introduced by the DJ in his very best smiley summer voice.
Driving along I could feel my hips start to sway…or they would have done were it not for the seatbelt constraining my movements.
No seatbelt in the world could restrain my steering wheel bongos, though, or my ability to sing along with what I thought the words might be (I don’t speak Spanish, so they probably weren’t those words at all…). I even manged some restrained grooving when traffic lights stopped me making progress.
For three and a half minutes, I felt like a gentle onshore breeze was wafting across the golden sands of an imaginary Carribean island to find me in a beachfront café, book in one hand, drink in the other, enjoying the relaxed pace of life away from work for a week or two.
It was quite the tonic after a day of business meetings, I can tell you…
“Cuba” was a big hit for the Gibson Brothers in the late 1970s. It’s got a great disco-infused rhythm guitar, wonderful strings, impressively tight brass and a piano piece so evocative of the Caribbean you’re there in an instant.
I’d love to be able to quote you some lyrics, but my Spanish isn’t nearly good enough to know what the Gibson Brothers are on about. But their music is so joyful, that hardly matters, somehow.
For a song largely sung in Spanish, perhaps surprisingly today’s song was performed by three brothers from French-speaking Martinique. What’s more, it was written by a Frenchman and produced by a Belgian.
It’s a combination that doesn’t immediately signal “great Latin track” to me but, perhaps surprisingly, this is.
I defy you not to dance…if you can…not to feel the warm Caribbean sunshine on your skin and not to smell the scent of exotic tropical flowers as you listen to “Cuba”.
That’s what I’m about to do as I press “play” on the video below.
Here’s the Gibson Brothers with “Cuba”…
(Now, where did I put those sequins…?)
If you’ve read this far, thank you for your time and attention. I know you could have spent your time doing something else, so I’m very grateful that you’ve spent it in the company of one of my favourite songs.
The video is below, but if you prefer to listen to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here…https://open.spotify.com/track/76Y5gh84zbZBp76Aa4wSOQ