On Thursday at Consiliul Raionul (The District Council), my place of work, I received my first flash drive with exclusively Romanian and Moldovan music on it from my colleague Sergiu. I requested that he transfer me songs that were easy to understand, catchy, and that he considered good music from talented artists. Out of the 14 tracks that I received only 2 or 3 were truly enjoyable with 1 on the playlist that I cannot stop replaying. (skip to the bottom for video and lyrics translations)
For myself, enjoyable music is a simple recipe: 1) sound, 2) meaning, and 3) nostalgia.
1) If I am not enjoying the pace, the melody, or the chorus, I will skip the song. Normally it takes me within 5 seconds to determine whether or not I like the sound of the song. I am pretty picky with music in general. Normally my choices are narrowed down to two simple genres: uppers and easy goers.
Uppers: If I am going to exercise (i.e. play sports) or go out with my friends for the night, I want something that will fall into the hip hop (i.e. Kid Cudi, Common, Lupe Fiasco, etc.) and tasteful electronic categories (i.e. not that euro-crap that blows out eardrums, has a repetitive snare, and/or has no technique/talent incorporated in it). See Ronald Jenkees or Bag Raiders for starters.
Easy Goers: If I am walking somewhere, studying, or want a change of pace I opt for instrumental rock, indie, a soloist on an acoustic guitar, or lighter rock. See Grateful Dead, James Vincent McMorrow, The Black Keys, Trevor Hall, and Of Monsters and Men.
2) After I’ve found a song in which I am enjoying the sound, I begin to listen and break down the lyrics. I do not always have to agree with every word that the artist(s) is saying to enjoy the song. I feel that the words add extra power and meaning to a song for me if I can relate to it but sometimes I like songs that talk about gold teeth or 24 inch rims on a vehicle. Deal with it!
3) After repetition of hearing the song and experiencing it with friends in distinct settings and locations it becomes part of the great memories in my life. I like to call this the Nostalgic Factor. Each song that I enjoy from specific artists is incorporated into the events in my life and the places I was when I first heard it or continued to enjoy it. Some of the most powerful and pleasurable songs in my life, remind me of the people who shared that time period and those tracks with me: listening, dancing, and singing along.
Dad – When driving to the Sky High camping resort and Door County, Wisconsin my father would always play his Grateful Dead tape. At the time I had very little appreciation for the talent of the group or many of the songs my dad would play of theirs. However, over time, 2 of the songs played have become favorites of mine because I remember sitting in the back seat of our 1993 gold Ford Taurus station wagon with the windows down in the company of my dad and brother. It brings me back to my childhood, of which I am quite fond. The songs happen to be: Friend of the Devil (which was my personal favorite) and Box of Rain (which was always my brother Mark’s). I like to turn both of the songs on and play them consecutively, especially when I am in commute by bus or as a passenger in a friend’s car.
Christian – While living and studying in Chicago, Illinois at DePaul University, starting in 2007, I met my best friend. In the summer of 2010, individually, things were not exactly working out for us in our personal lives. We both had just ended our relationships with our girlfriends, his of 3+ years and mine of 4 months, which now seems comical. To add insult to injury for myself, I had also stepped away from a very frustrating position with a Chicago-based marketing agency around the time of my breakup. Here I was, 23 years old, unemployed, dumped, and clueless of the next step. I was down in the dumps as was my friend. I spent a good 2 weeks in my apartment, not wanting to do anything. I watched the entire World Cup (I hated soccer at the time), seldom did I shower, and kept the lights off for the majority of the days. Accompanying me were many frozen pizzas and beverages not worth mentioning. Looking back now, that had to be the bottom of all bottoms for me and maybe Christian as well. However, during that summer he and I spent more time together than I can remember with a friend outside of possibly Vehid and Joey, whom I will mention later. Instead of sulking and complaining about our shortcomings in life, Christian and I met with another group of friends and became active in the city. Going out to the bars, playing cards, having eating competitions, hitting North Avenue beach, and helping each other piece together our plans. Essentially we re-juvenated one another, dug ourselves out of the muck, learned a great deal about each other’s pasts, and realized we were both obsessed with our families, personal missions in life, baseball, traveling, the opposite sex, hookahs, and later Taco Bell. In the summer of 2010 a CD fell into my possession: Kid Cudi’s “The Man on the Moon: The End of Day”. From start to finish I listened to that CD habitually, catching hit after hit, agreeing with beats, lyrics, sounds… creating nostalgia. Christian was also a fan of the CD, which became regular on the playlist at summer parties and in my apartment. In the winter, Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” became insanely popular with hits like “Monster”, “Runaway”, and “Power”. However, when it deals with nostalgia, I always think of my friend when I hear “Blame Game” and “All of the Lights” with the instrumental prelude. The CD reminds me specifically of his apartment in Bucktown, where Christian became known as “The Closer”. Mr. Mariano Rivera himself, if you will. Finally, Wiz Khalifa’s “Rolling Papers” was released in 2011. In that time period, I was accepted to the Peace Corps and the University of South Carolina. It was a time of celebration and good-byes. One song that I related to strongly was “Cameras”, which talks about Wiz’s feelings of moving away from his home and becoming famous. Not that I’m fending off paparazzi or anything, but at the time the song fit too perfectly into my situation and how sad I was to be saying good bye to my life in Chicago. This song was the lasting impression I had on my home and when I play it I think specifically of my old apartment and the city, which ultimately makes me remember my friend Christian.
Chris and Will – The 4 months I spent in Guadalajara, Mexico will go down in history as the most outrageous experience in my life. The start of 2012 was full of moments of going out to the cantinas and clubs at night and seriously reeking havoc on the dance floor. Always by my side were Chris and Will. The nights would contain music that would made you want to dance. American hip-hop, pop, and trendy international favorites. With courage and vigor we would hit the dance floors fearlessly. Spinning, juking, and fist-pumping with Mexico’s finest. The master instigator Will (and also Taylor, when applicable) acted as the parental supervisor for the children: Chris and myself. Without him, we may not have survived. During these nights, you could make certain that 2 songs would always play: “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar and “Ai Se Eu Tu Pego” by Michel Telo. To this day I will still listen to Danza Kuduro with joy but as for Ai Se Eu Tu Pego all I can think about is how many people humped the air and did the dougie when this track dropped, and it makes me laugh. For all the great moments I had with those two out in the night the songs will forever remind me of us living as roommates in one compact house in Zapopan, Jalisco with our crazy-funny host mom “Tocaya” and our foreign exchange roommate from China, Fabio, who is easily one of the most honest and nice people I have met. I truly cherish that experience and carry it with me in my iPod. Salud jefes!
Joey – Mr. Mr. Brutzkus aka Jewdacris aka J Beezy. My partner in crime throughout high school. The kid who wore black jeans to the first day of freshmen football two-a-days and held a set of drumsticks in his hands as he banged away on laundry detergent buckets during baseball games, became one of my favorite people growing up. He still is today. The song that takes me back with Joey is “Shake Ya Tailfeather” by Nelly and Murphy Lee, which became a B96 (Chicago radio station) instant classic in the summer of 2003. While I drove the Shagon Wagon around Skokie, Joey and I would blast this track up real loud and after a little time nailed every line of the song (not that it was all that hard to begin with). We became so well-versed with the song, that we actually made lyrics for the deaf. That’s right. He and I made hand signals and gestures for every lyric of the song. Maybe it was because we were both high-school athletes and loved signal calling or maybe it was because we were both just extremely lame, you may decide. All I remember though is that we would crack up hysterically and perform the dance routinely. For example, for the lines: Shake Ya Tailfeather, we would shake, then point to our butts, and cap it off with a wing flapping motion. Pretty stupid, extremely lame, yet provided some great laughs and entertainment during our routine summers of eating free ice cream, playing tennis baseball in the park, watching Hardball, cranking out triple 8’s, going to the batting cages and Herm’s, and staying up until 4am playing Madden or MVP Baseball. All while talking to about 0.5 ladies. Honestly, those days were glorious and I still Shake My Tailfeather whenever I hear the song.
Mark – I seriously cannot listen to a song from the 90’s and not think of my brother. From the Smashing Pumpkins “1979” and “Tonight, Tonight” to Alanis Morrisette to Ace of Base to anything from the Jock Jams or Space Jam CDs to Michael Jackson, the Spice Girls, The Lion King soundtrack or Madonna, it is my brother who occupies my mind (I’m sorry Mark). It is such a high sensation of happiness thinking about he and I growing up together, playing baseball and video games, wrestling, and spending time with our dad that I do not care how crappy the song is from the 90’s, I will listen to it. I will sometimes close my eyes and picture myself on 3922 Hull Street with him and feel warm inside. I see a newspaper with box scores laid out on my dad’s homemade coffee table, our green and blue parakeets in the basement, and a weird statue of a bare foot resting on our book shelf (Dad, what the hell was that thing?). It brings me back to the moments of discovering life for the first time, with him by my side, and they make me happy. Being far away from him now is extremely difficult for me and it is these types of songs that bring me back into his presence and the nostalgia of those moments that elevate even the worst song from the 90’s to being important.
With all that has been said, I would like to jump back to the introduction of this post where I mentioned a song, which instantly caught my ear. The song is “Vorbe Care Dor” by 3rei Sud Est, which translates to “Words That Hurt” by 3 Southeast.
1) Sound – The song passed the sound test. I enjoy international R&B and the group put together a song with a good melody and strong vocals. I love the sound of the Romanian language, it is smooth and romantic and this song plays off of this belief of mine.
2) Meaning – From the Romanian that I’ve learned so far, I could piece together the chorus and realized it was a song about a broken heart. Not that I am recovering from one, but I like the words. Upon further research I found these lyrics and translated them into English:
la noapte am sa plec
caci nu e usor
sa simt patul iarasi rece si gol
si glasul tau ca un ecou
o noua zi
tu n-ai sa stii
privesc spre cer
si-ntreb de ce
n-au nici un rost
iar ma indrept spre nicaieri
vorbe… vorbe care tot mai dor
vorbe spuse prea usor diminetile tarzii
vorbe… vorbe care tot mai dor
vorbe spuse prea usor
mai poate fi ceva intre noi
sunt doar iluzii
la noapte am sa plec
mie greu dar incerc
vreau din mintea mea cumva sa sterg
vorbe care nu mai cred
in fiinta mea
e o lupta grea
sa nu privesc in urma mea
si bratele larg le-am deschis
ma las purtat de vant prïn noapte
vorbe vorbe vorbe ooo (x4)
At night I’m going to leave
Because it’s not easy
To feel the cold and empty bed again
And your voice is like an echo
A new day
You will not know
I look toward the sky
And ask why…
There’s no use for
And I head for nowhere…
Words, words that hurt more and more
Words spoken too easily in the late mornings
Words, words that hurt more and more
Words spoken too easily
That there still could be something between us
Are just illusions.
At night I’m going to leave
It is difficult for me but I try.
I want to somehow erase from my mind
The words which I no longer believe.
Within my being
Is a hard fight
Let me not look behind me
And I opened my arms wide
I allow myself (to be) carried by the wind through the night
Words, words, words, oooo (x4)
3) Nostalgia – When I first heard the song, I was walking to the Relaxy Cafe for coffee and to finish my Romanian language assignments from my tutor, Ina Porubin, on Saturday morning, September 1st, 2012. It was a sunny day in the mid-70’s and I was in good spirits.
What level or kind of nostalgia will this song leave me during and post-Moldova? Only time will tell. One thing though will not be replaced. It was the first Moldovan song that I listened to, enjoyed, and remembered. More than likely it will be a memory of myself living, working, and serving in Leova for the rest of my life and will contribute to music’s already powerful influence on the moments that have occurred in my life and will transpire in the future.