Tag Archives: Colombia

If you’re a political candidate in Colombia, forget about using your name

Santiago Ramírez at the Real Sound Studio in Bogota, where they compose jingles for political candidates. He says they once had a conservative client, a Colombian Mitt Romney-type, who asked for a raunchy reggaeton tune so he could connect with young vote (Real Sound/Flickr)

Santiago Ramírez at the Real Sound Studio in Bogota, where they compose jingles for political candidates.(Real Sound/Flickr)

Here’s a post from Bogota-based John Otis.

What do you do when you’re one among thousands of candidates on the ballot? In Colombia, you hire a jingle writer.

At a sound studio in Bogota, Juan Fonseca is composing a 15-second radio spot for a Colombian congressional candidate.

Radio reaches more people in Colombia than newspapers or TV, which is why a well-crafted jingle, played over and over on the radio, can help a campaign take off. But composing these ditties is a strange and tricky art form.

Santiago Ramirez of Bogota’s Real Sound studio recalls a button-down conservative — a sort-of Colombian Mitt Romney — who thought he could connect to younger voters by setting his jingle to raunchy, sexually explicit reggaeton.

“We were like ‘What? Do you really want a reggaeton?” Ramirez says.

Ramirez did ultimately produce the jingle, and the candidate lost.

Another challenge for jingle composers is politicians who have strange names that are hard to rhyme.

“We’re working with a guy whose name is very weird. It’s ‘Telesforo.’ It’s very similar to phone, you know, telefono,” he says.

When I ask him who names their kid Telesforo, he laughs and says, “I don’t know, man. A very crazy guy.”

Still, Ramirez says numbers are even more important than names. He plays me a song where there’s no name. The spot simply urges people to vote for candidate No.101. There’s a good reason for that.

Unlike US legislative races, which are mostly one-on-one contests, Colombia’s are a free-for-all. A whopping 2,300 candidates are running for 285 seats in the Colombian House and Senate.

As a result, the ballot for the March 9th election is the size of a newspaper. But it still isn’t big enough to hold so many names. Instead, each candidate is assigned a number and that’s what appears on the ballot.

“In Colombia when you go to vote, you have to mark with an “X” the number of the candidate. That’s super important,” says Miguel de Narvaez, who runs a recording studio called Sonido Comericial.

Narvaez says a good melody or chorus can implant the candidate’s number in the voter’s brain. Jingle writers prefer small numbers because they’re easier to rhyme.

So what about big numbers like 172?

“No! 172? That would make it very difficult,” Narvaez says. “Probably what we would do here would be to split the number.” He starts singing, “1-7-2” instead of “one-hundred-and-seventy-two.”

When we meet up again, Juan Fonseca, the piano man, has finished the jingle for his client, a congressional candidate named Monica Giraldo. Rather than reggaeton, Giraldo requested a more innocent sound, so Fonseca brought in a teenager to sing the vocal tracks.

Giraldo, of the Conservative Party, is listed as C-102 on the ballot, but Fonseca resists playing the numbers game. In the end politics is all about people, so Fonseca tried to make an emotional connection with voters by focusing on Giraldo’s human qualities.

“She is a person with leadership skills, who puts her heart into her work,” he says. “All of these attributes make her much more than just candidate number C-102.”

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Colombian Spanish, U.S. Spanish, and Dora the Explorer Spanish

In Colombia, you can hear Latin America’s clearest, crispest Spanish. As a result, Bogota is home to everything from call centers to telenovela production houses. The original Yo soy Betty, la Fea was shot and produced in Colombia. It was broadcast in most Latin American countries, before new versions were produced all over the world: in the U.S. Ugly Betty; in Vietnam Cô gái xấu xí; in Turkey Sensiz Olmuyor.

Also in this pod, a conversation with philosopher Oscar Guardiola-Rivera about what the spread of Spanish in the United States is doing to the language, and to America. There are now particular identifiable dialects of Spanish specific to certain U.S. regions, and sometimes specific to certain groups: Cuban-American, Puerto Rican, Mexican-American, etc. The language is leaving its mark on the country too. It could be argued, for example, that in Miami, if you don’t speak at least some Spanish you’re at a disadvantage.  Guardiola-Rivera is the author of What if Latin America Ruled The World?

Finally, Dora the Explorer and Kai-Lan: two fictional TV stars who introduce American kids to their first words of Spanish and Chinese. In Dora’s case, she also introduces Spanish speakers to their first English words, which may be why  this doctored online image of Dora garnered so much attention earlier this year.  The intention of the illustrator wasn’t clear. Was she sympathizing with opponents of the spread of Hispanic culture and language via illegal immigration, or was she mocking them? Both sides embraced the image, and poor Dora got it in the neck.  For the record, Dora does plenty of travelling in her cartoon world; she appears to cross many borders, quite unhindered. As for her nationality, she appears to be American — at least that’s how she sounds — of undefined Hispanic heritage.  (This is totally beside the point, but it doesn’t stop many of us from speculating…). One other thing about Dora: We English-speakers know her as a character who introduces kids to Spanish words. Well, the Spanish language version of the show Dora la Exploradora introduces kids to English words.



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