A commenter was kind enough to point me to a very Tecnorumba-ish site (I think the original is defunct now) with a cache of merengue de calle along with reggaeton and some other Caribbean odds and ends: TuPayloa.com. The site design is baffling, with some mp3s scrolling across the screen and necessitating some Duck-Hunt-style link clicking, but the tunes are there.
My favorite find was from Mala Fe, who had a novelty hit in the DR a while back called “La Vaca” (moo). More recently Mala Fe has become a gay icon of sorts with his cover of a parody of an internet meme version of a Moldovan pop hit (whew).
Here’s the evolution:
Moldovan Euro-dance group Ozone with “Dragostea Din Tea” live.
Chunky teenager Gary Broslma’s ebullient lip-syncing turns the song into a huge internet meme.
Spanish comedy duo Los Morancos give the song the Weird Al treatment, turning it into “Pluma Gay,” a campy parody of homosexuality and Euro-dance. The lyrics are changed to “Marica quien? Marica tu. Marica yo. Maric ha ha!”: “Who’s gay? You’re gay. I’m gay. We’re all gay!” At first I thought they said “maricon,” which means “butterfly”; think of the use of “fairy” in English. Turns out “marica” (literally, “magpie”) is Castillian for a “weak, effeminate man” according to the DRAE, something the dictionary has taken flak for. Ah, learning! The video isn’t all that funny, unless you think middle-aged men engaging in homo-play-acting is inherently hilarious.
Mala Fe’s mambo-style cover changes the tone from mocking to celebratory, making it an affirmation of gay identity, while maintaining the irreverence (his name does mean “Bad Faith” after all) of Los Malandros’ version. In the video, Mala Fe struggles to remain in the closet, but when he can’t satisfy his new bride, he’s forced to come out. The song’s title makes more sense with the video’s abundance of feather boas — plumas gay indeed.
Fittingly, a homothuggin’ lip-sync version of Mala Fe’s song is also on YouTube.
I haven’t gone through all the TuPayola jams yet, but also of interest to the sociologically inclined is DJ Sensual’s La Historia Del Haitiano, which proves that Latinos can have just as much xenophobic anxiety about immigration as gringos. Haitians can’t even speak Spanish, yet they expect to get good jobs and eat seafood when they cross the border! Muy familiar, no?