Arts, Culture & Media

Spain's Serrat & Sabina: A Music Appreciation by Betto Arcos

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Joan Manuel Serrat and Joaquín Sabina (Credit: www.dospajaroscontraatacan.com)

"La Orquesta del Titanic", the new album by Joan Manuel Serrat and Joaquín Sabina, is in the style of Lennon & McCartney.

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It's hard to know from the credits who wrote which song. But I've followed the careers of these two singers for more than three decades, so I can usually tell whether it's a Serrat or a Sabina song.

Serrat has a warm, melodious voice, while Sabina has a raspy, growly one. Serrat is 68, from Cataluña, and Sabina is 63, from Andalucía.

Serrat has released more than 35 albums in a career spanning more than five decades. Sabina has put out more than twenty albums, in three decades.

They started touring together in 2007.

Both of them are considered major figures of Spanish pop music.

I first heard Serrat when I was eight-years-old. My older sister used to bring albums from Mexico City when she'd visit us in my hometown of Xalapa, Veracruz.

I remember the voice of this young, emerging Spanish singer.

As soon as I started getting into music in my teens, I bought every album I could find. That's when I began to understand and identify with his touching lyrics.

These are the lyrics to Serrat's song, "Hoy por ti, mañana por mi"

"I'm tired and you're lost
Let's cure the wounds with spicy chilies
Today for you, tomorrow for me.
If you walk, I will follow,
If you get tired, I will make a nest on the shoulder
Today for you, tomorrow too."

I heard Sabina later, when I was in college, in my early twenties, after a friend introduced me to his music.

His lyrics are racy, filled with raw humor and biting irony, as in this song titled "Después de los Despueses." It's a story about an affair with a married woman.

The lyrics to the song "Después de los Despueses" go like this:

"…Agony, a bottle, a night of indigestion,
There were times I woke up early at dawn
Behind the bottle and the siesta,
I confess that your kisses deserved
A much better song than this one…"

Both Serrat and Sabina like to comment on the issues of the day. So it's fitting that the album's title, "La Orquesta del Titanic" (The Titanic's Orchestra), is a kind of metaphor for the state of affairs in Spain.

During a press conference earlier this year, Sabina said he knew the economic crisis in Spain was big and the Spanish people were desperate. And he added, "To sing is all we could come up with, so that the people have a song to laugh or to cry."

I had a chance to see Sabina in 2011 while he was on tour with his band in the United States. But even after all these years, I'd never seen Serrat in concert.

They played for more than three hours.

One of the last encores was a song I used to sing when I was a teen. It's called "Cantares", written by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. I sang along with the thousands of fans from Spain and Latin America at the concert.

Here's a video of Serrat and Sabina singing "Cantares" at a concert in 2007: