Syncretic Trifecta

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For years, the fastest-growing radio format in Southern California has been Spanish-language. But now, the hottest station in town, KXOL-FM, has vaulted from 18th to 2nd place in the local Arbitron ratings in part by switching from all-Spanish to bilingual.

My main point in bringing this up, besides warming Tyler Cowen's heart and Lonewacko's blood (and also finding a flimsy excuse to link to my favorite local radio show) … is to point out the embarrassing truth that the music style played on KXOL is one I'd absolutely positively never heard of before.

The station, owned by Miami-based Spanish Broadcasting System Inc., highlights reggaeton, an upbeat genre with Panamanian and Puerto Rican roots.

Then again, I'm the same guy who, when driving through France two years ago, heard a French DJ go on and on about the ragin' new American style of crunk, and assumed loudly that the poor fellow was just confused by the language….

And speaking of syncretism, here's another reason to root for the White Sox in the World Series—off-his-rocker Manager Ozzie Guillen is a proud practitioner of Santeria.

NEXT: Party Ticket to Nowhere

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  1. Ozzie and Santeria? First I’ve heard of it.

  2. Could it also be that a lot of first- second- and third-generation Americans of Hispanic descent have stronger English language skills than Spanish, and prefer to use English to communicate? Maybe it’s a rejection of ethnic Balkanization.

  3. Scott — Syncreticsm has always been the enemy of Balkanization.

  4. White Sox Fan — Click the link. He may be joking, but as an Angels fan, I believe everything Ozzie says.

  5. As a mulitculturalist and city planner, I’m just going to start describing my political philosophy as “synchretist.”

  6. ….Stright ball….I hit it very much! Curveball….bats are afraid! I make an offering to Jobu…cigar and rum! He will come!

  7. He may be joking, but as an Angels fan, I believe everything Ozzie says.

    Heh heh. If there’s a spell for complete game wins, Ozzie’s got it.

  8. Has balkanization ever really been an issue? Except for those who wish it to be an issue.

  9. I’m thinking there has to be voodoo involved somewhere too – did you see Vlad? The man was swinging a limp noodle, not a bat… (either that or somebody’s got mighty incriminating pictures.)

  10. I was hoping Ozzie would have said “We spanked the rally monkey in this series.” Ah well. It’ll be nice to see Ozzie versus either Garner or LaRussa, two guys who take themselves way too seriously.

  11. peachy,

    If Vlad’s not proof enough, I actually saw Juan Uribe take four pitches in a row!

  12. Ozzie’s got some powerful juju – I mean, when was the last time Carl Everett said something stupid in public? His entire career, the man was a walking mouth, and then he gets here and shuts up… I’m thinking there’s a little doll version of him stashed away in an office at comiskey next to a box of pins.

    “Dinosaurs, OUCH!. Sorry, no comment.”

  13. Garner practices some variety of Voodoo management, I’m sure of it. I think the Astros do all right more in spite of than because of him. Go Astros! And please, for the love of everything holy in baseball, remember how to score runners from 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Goddamnit. And don’t let Lidge throw any more crappy sliders to Pujols.

  14. Isn’t this a ploy some of the Spanish TV channels have already used? If I recall, when the remake of Charlies Angels was put on (with much bustier, much hotter women), the channel it was on (Uni or TM?) also did either an English dub or subscripted version also; not that you really needed to understand anything but what your eyes showed you.

    Matt, you would like reggaeton, it is a syncretic music that, in the U.S. anyway, has become a pan-Hispanic music form being loved by the Mexican as well as the other Latin-types (not to mention all those captured by the term Anglo).

  15. It’s Spanglish rap. Lots of J-Lo, Nelly, even Mariah Carey. Nothing you haven’t seen or heard on MTV, just a different mix.

    Besides, they play the same freakin’ songs over and over again. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll be able to sing along.

    There was a figurative riot in Houston when the 20+ year old Rock station KLOL was booted by Clear Channel in favor of Mega 101, Latino and Proud. WIthin a few months, Cumulus had hired all the old rock DJs and opened shop as KIOL.

  16. “Matt, you would like reggaeton, it is a syncretic music that, in the U.S. anyway, has become a pan-Hispanic music form being loved by the Mexican as well as the other Latin-types (not to mention all those captured by the term Anglo).”

    I stand by the simpler term: Spanglish Rap.

  17. peachy,

    Carl Everett is still rambling as ever, but the reporters don’t go near him while Ozzie’s talking (which is always). Kind of the same juju that Billy Martin had going with the Yankees, the team can have talent that includes a couple of real jackasses, but when the manager is batshit crazy no one notices so the players can just play and not get distracted.

  18. dancehall + spanish rap + freestyle = reggaeton

  19. reggaetron is way closer to dancehall than hip hop…check out Daddy Yankee…he’s been coming to Humboldt Park/Logan Square in Chitown for the past few years, and this year he was at the Allstate Arena…it’s amazing when something blows up

    GO SOX

  20. Syncreticsm has always been the enemy of Balkanization.

    At least since the Island Kingdom of Syncrete went to war against the Balkans in the 14th century BC.

    PS: And why does everyone speak of “Balkanization” as a bad thing? As a Balkan-American (mostly Croatian on my mother’s side) I am offended. Plus I am tired of being oppressed by the Syncretan power structure.

  21. Ah, well, that explains it (though I liked my theory better). I miss Carl – he was always good for a laugh. Of course, no recent Chicago sports figure has yet challenged Rodman. Now there was a MAN! (Or whatever – any theorists of gender lurking around to help us out with the proper term?)

  22. If the White Sox win the series, no chicken will be safe around major league baseball.

  23. Reggaeton is huge in Central America and growing quickly in the US. I admit I’m not a big fan. You can check out Daddy Yankee (Gasolina and Lo Que Paso, Paso), Tego Calderon (Pa’ Que Retozen), Don Omar (Reggaeton Latino) to find out what millions of people are listening to. Even Shakira (Tortura) has gotten on the bandwagon.

    Are you surprised you’ve never heard of reggaeton? I think most Americans would be hard pressed to identify merengue, norteno, mambo, son, mariachi, bachata, cumbia, salsa, danzon, chachacha, banda, tango…

    Americans miss out on a lot of culture because it isn’t in English. BTW, second generation immigrants are often illiterate in Spanish.

  24. As a multiculturalist

    So how does that work — tacos for breakfast, sharia for lunch?

  25. As a mulitculturalist and city planner, I’m just going to start describing my political philosophy as “synchretist.”

    Did you see that Judge Rhinehardt letter in Harper’s this month. It reminded me of you somehow.

  26. Douglas, you couldn’t think of a single Middle Eastern food?

    Haven’t seen it, Dave W. Don’t get that mag.

  27. The great thing about America is you can be an American exceptionalist and a multiculturalist at the same time.

    Its when multi-culturalism turns into tribalism and social balkanization via identity politics that it gets to be bad news.

    Multiculturalism is by no means synonymous with syncretism, after all.

  28. As a matter of fact, RC, our multicultural character is part of our exceptionalism.

    I’m latching onto “synchretism” because its original meaning refers to the process by which a collection of villages grows into a city.

    Like the absorbtion of other cultures into the American scene, this can occur in a way that eliminates each village entirely, and replaces them all with a standardized city plan, or it can be done in a way that retains each village, with its unique character, as its own place, and creates a mosaic city.

  29. joe,

    As a matter of fact, RC, our multicultural character is part of our exceptionalism.

    No it isn’t. Most societies are “multicultural.” Your flat out ignorance of things not American is very amusing given your attempt to sound bohemian, etc.

    You are latching onto it because you want to sound hip.

  30. ahhh, the old melting pot versus mosaic dispute, aka: do we want to keep our humanity or do we want to make as much money as possible?

    We want it all! Myself, I am melting pot at work, but mosaic at home.

    This cultural dispute seems really active up here in the Toronto area. It seems like a good ongoing discussion for a society to have. I am convinced that there is no single great answer or obvious compromise here.

  31. Dave W., the big question is not that faced by an individual faced with a society with a melting pot ethic, but that faced by the society – should it strive to maintain its lumpiness, or to smooth everything out?

  32. Yeah, that is the issue. I love how mosaic-y Toronto is. One of the unexpected advantages of moving here. For both governments and individuals, I think the answer to these issues should be mixed, fluid and context-specific.

    I didn’t mind all the Spanish in California (or the Portuguese in my current neighborhood), but when I try to explain the concept of a binding contract or a patentable invention to someone who grew up in the non-first-world country, I find I need a big melting pot to cauterize away the bad thinking.

  33. ozzie DOES practice santeria, and he has fully admitted it. why would you post “this is the first time ive heard about it” instead of just googling it? dont argue it, GOOGLE IT! duh. i did and u will get interviews with ozzie saying “yes i pay people to kill animals, there is lots of blood involved”

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