Los Del Rio: The making of “Macarena”, the Spanish hit that made the world dance | Culture
In 1996 the whole world was swept away by Macarena Madness. The original flamenco hit by the Seville duo known as Los del Río – composed of Antonio Romero and Rafael Ruiz – had already soared in Spain in 1993. But the Bayside Boys’ dance remix, which incorporated vocals females in English, remained atop the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks that summer, and remained in the charts for 66 weeks.
As the world’s most influential music barometer, it was an incredible feat for middle-aged crooners, surpassed only in 2017 by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee who enlisted Justin Bieber to collaborate on a Spanish version of Despacito, which topped the US charts for 16 weeks, a record. However, no one can claim that what these two Seville city friends of Dos Hermanas achieved was phenomenal.
Speaking only a few words of English and with the internet still in its infancy, Los Del Río has revolutionized the world’s largest and most competitive music market with its dance song. The facts speak for themselves. A quarter of a century ago Macarena was performed at the Democratic National Convention with Hillary Clinton applauding; it was also used by the US women’s gymnastics team at the Atlanta Olympics. Among other surrealist achievements, the duo performed it on January 26, 1997 at the Super Bowl in front of a live audience of over 70,000 spectators and tens of millions of home viewers.
Maybe it all got out of hand? “Not at all,” Romero said. “We never panicked because at that point we already had a 30-year career and had to face a lot of difficulties. We started at 14 and being young we played both song and bullfighting. It wasn’t until the death of our fathers that we said to ourselves, “We have no choice but to take this music seriously. Basically because it was the only thing that gave us money that could help our mothers. It was the greatest sacrifice we could make.
The duo had other successes in Spain like Seville has a special color or You noted in the mirada, but outside of Spain they are considered unique wonders. Not that at 73, it ruffles their feathers. As Romero points out, “Becoming number one on five continents is extremely difficult. This is not the norm. Just as Spain has only won the World Cup once, luckily we were able to be world champions when it comes to music. We are always asked when we will dial another Macarena, to which we reply that we have already done so. Let others try their luck. What we need to do now is live and have fun.
While this is the anniversary of the song’s remix, it’s worth remembering that the original was released on the duo’s 1993 album. A mí me gusta. The catchy words came to Romero when he and Ruiz were invited to a party in late 1992 by businessman Gustavo Cisneros in Caracas, Venezuela, where they rubbed shoulders with then-Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez, and a local flamenco. dancer named Diana Patricia Cubillán Herrera.
” The young lady [Patricia Cubillán] started dancing and I said to her: ‘Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Magdalena, que tu cuerpo es pa ‘darle alegría y cosa buena‘- put joy in your body Magdalena, for your body is made to receive joy and good things.’ That’s what inspired me to write it, ”says Romero. “But since I have a daughter named Esperanza Macarena, I decided to change Magdalena into Macarena.”
According to Ruiz, “she [Patricia Cubillán] Did very well because, being our muse, she was able to tell everyone that she is the real Macarena. Far from hiding his identity, we have been very open on this subject. We think it’s great that she took advantage of what happened that day to open her own dance school and land a role in a soap opera. It brings back wonderful memories. We just hope she is doing well in Venezuela because she and her family are a delight. “
Another remix was made in the 1990s by the Spanish duo Fangoria, made up of Alaska and Nacho Canut, before the song’s American success. They demanded money and took the case to the courts as far as Strasbourg. “When Macarena hit the big time, everyone wanted to get on board, ”says Ruiz. Decades later, Fangoria’s question continues to be the one they’d rather not discuss. Meanwhile, Alaska had this to say in a 2013 Vanity Fair interview: “Macarena triumphed in Spain in 1993. As Fangoria we did a remix and this remix triumphed again in Spain. Then in Miami, suddenly, they used our remix and added some vocals. It’s not that this was a whole other remix; it was ours! It went to European courts, but it was rejected, so there is nothing to be done. “
Los del Río, however, stressed that there was no animosity towards Fangoria. Discussing the issue in 2017 on the Bertín Osborne talk show, they insisted, “We love Alaska!
Whatever the truth is, the remix the Bayside Boys released like theirs opened the doors to success across the pond. Producers Mike Triay and Carlos de Yarza recorded the version in 1995 with help from singer Patty Alfaro. Initially, he failed to get approval from Los del Riós’ label BMG / Ariola, who even threatened to sue them. However, as it aired endlessly on radio stations like Power 96 or WKTU in New York City, the label came to realize that this was media coverage they couldn’t afford to give up, although the fine print of the contract is completely unknown.
Even more surreal is the fact that Macarena could have become an even bigger hit than it was. Or, at least, that was expected when Michael Jackson expressed interest in recording a new version with Los del Río. “He was crazy about our song and played it before he started his shows to warm up his audience,” says Romero. “His lawyer contacted us and told us that Miguel, as he called him, really wanted to work with us. He told us that he was on medical treatment and that when he recovered we would get things done. It was six or eight months before he declined and left us. He was very excited about it, but he wasn’t.
In 2016, Los del Río collaborated with the group Gente de Zona with More Macarena. And, unbelievable as it sounds, in 2019 they got a call from American rapper Tyga asking them to collaborate on viral. Ayy Macarena, which has over 150 million views on YouTube. Romero thinks Michael Jackson may have played a role in this. “Look, I think wherever Miguel is, like his lawyer said, he has something to do with it, like ‘maybe not with me, but definitely with somebody else’,” he said.
Much has been written about whether Los del Río is a millionaire thanks to the fact that they offered the flagship version of Macarena. They continue to earn an unknown amount in royalties and songwriter rights. When asked about it, they attempt a graceful brush. But, ultimately, they tackle the problem. “Why don’t you contact the publisher? Romero said. “As a songwriter, they demanded that I give them 50% to sell it and increase its popularity. What should be on the table is how many people have benefited from Macarena independently of us. I don’t mean we’re about to cry and feel sorry for ourselves. We were given what I think we deserve, but that doesn’t mean it reflects reality.
At this point Ruiz steps in: “On top of all that, Antonio shared the product 50-50 with me,” he says. “And for the first two years, we had to pay more than half of the profits in taxes. “
According to Romero, “what makes us rich is not Macarena, these are our families. We have wonderful children and lovely grandchildren who are already starting to come out and sing better than us. Humility in life is what always triumphs. There is nothing more important or richer than being humble. We learned this from our parents, who were hard workers. No matter how much time has passed, we continue to have fun singing, and we do it with the same desire we had in the beginning – to make the world a happier one.
Macarena is still very much alive and dynamic. As if more proof was needed, Los del Río has teamed up with Airbnb and, in August, will take on the role of hosts at a rental villa in Utrera, a town in the southern province of Seville. The first four guests, who confirmed their reservations this week, will not only be greeted by these legendary performers, they will also have access to a private karaoke room filled with Spanish guitars and even receive tips from the duo to perfect the choreography. of the famous song. “We’re also going to teach them how to make a good gazpacho,” says Romero.
“The house is not our property,” he adds. “It belongs to friends with whom we often do house swaps. We still do not know who will come, but I assure you that they will have a very special welcome. They are going to have a wonderful time! It goes without saying that Macarena will be part of the experience, although guests will have to wait and see which version is deployed.
english version by Heather galloway.
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