Saturday, September 29, 2012

Panned Pipes

Radio music in Europe, as we discovered on the Mongol Rally last year, consists of one tune. The beat varies depending how far east you are, but it's essentially the same song repeated endlessly. You know it, it's that song that sounds like a cross between "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "Jump!" and was arranged by ABBA. It grates on you. It grinds on you. It irritates you the way a piece of steak stuck in your molar irritates you. And, because its catchy, it sticks with you long after the radio has been smashed to pieces by some ragingly choleric metal head doing what he sees as his civic duty.

Radio music in Peru comes in a couple of flavors. The first is Dad Rock. The rock that your late baby boomer dad (dads like Mike) came of age with. Not that the '80's were a bad time to come of age, but there's a psychopathic threshold for how often you can hear "The Walk of Life" and "Money for Nothing" in the same day. The other flavor is 60's pop tunes reworked with Andean pan pipes. This hideous pastiche of World Music became much more present and therefore annoying as we made our way further south of Lima towards the Gringo Trail. "Yesterday" and "The Sounds of Silence" bleatingly played with all good intention for tourists is frankly something that should be banned by the United Nations as cruel and unusual punishment. At times it seemed the only break from "El Condor Pasa" (having come a full circle via Paul Simon) was, incongruously, "La Bamba" by Los Lobos. 

Fortunately, our drivers, Leo, Cesar, and Fritz leaned towards local musicians with a diverse range of styles - from Latin American pop to rumba and mambo - and Mike's head didn't explode. 

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