A Latin Soundtrack to Childhood Memories

In this week's song pick, News & Notes Executive Producer Nicole Childers talks about her favorite childhood song, "Brujeria" by El Gran Combo.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Every Wednesday, we play our staff song pick of the week, and a lot of us have a favorite song from our childhood.

(Soundbite of music)

NICOLE CHILDERS: I must have been around 3 or 4 years old when I first heard this song. What I remember most is that it's just always been my favorite song.

CHIDEYA: That's executive producer Nicole Childers talking about her favorite song, "Brujeria," by El Gran Cambot. She first heard the song at the home of her Puerto Rican neighbors, Marie and Josie Cosme. These friends later became Nicole's foster family.

By the time she moved to New York City as an adult, Nicole had fallen out of contacts with the Cosmes, and hadn't heard the song in years.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

EL GRAN COMBO: (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

CHILDERS: I lived on the main thoroughfare of Spanish Harlem. And sometimes when I would be leaving me apartment, I would hear the song.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

CHILDERS: And it hit me instantly that I loved the song, that I suddenly remembered the song - even I remembered the words of the song. But the one problem was that I had no idea what the name of the song was, who sang it. So for years, I would just have to hold on to the small moments when I would actually hear the song again.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

EL GRAN COMBO: (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

CHILDERS: You know, the song is really about a man who is falling in love with a woman and thinks that she's put a hex on him. And so when the lyrics say (Spanish spoken), he's saying I feel something cold going through me. You did witchcraft on me.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

EL GRAN COMBO: (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

CHILDERS: Throughout the course of the song, he's saying - he's citing specific examples of why he feels as though she's put some voodoo or some witchcraft on him.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

CHILDERS: It wasn't until I, by chance, attended a Latino film festival in New York, and I was there to watch a movie called "Boricua". And during the course of the movie, they played the song. So at the end of the movie, I checked the credits. I saw the name of that the song was "Brujeria" by El Gran Combo, and the very next day I ran downstairs from me - from where I lived in Spanish Harlem, there was a little Latino music store called Casa Latina. And I went down there, and I said what do you have by El Gran Combo? And they said, well, what song are you looking for? And I said "Brujeria". I bought it immediately, and have been playing it since.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

EL GRAN COMBO: (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

CHIDEYA: Nicole reconnected with Marie Cosmae(ph), whom she calls Titi Marie(ph), to talk about the song. And here's what her Titi Marie remembers.

Ms. MARIE COSMAE: Well, as a little kid, you actually really did love that song. And since we had the album, every time you came over - which was all time, because you just lived down the hall from me - you had us play this over and over, and you used to dance around the house singing and carrying on.

CHILDERS: And how was my dancing?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COSMAE: Hopefully, it's improved with age. But, you know, you were such a beautiful little baby, so it didn't really matter.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

CHILDERS: When I think of the song "Brujeria," I think of time spent at your house. I think of (Spanish spoken). I think of (Spanish spoken). I think of - to translate, rice and beans. I think of good food and good music and just happy times dancing. What do you think of?

Ms. COSMAE: Basically, the same thing. And food is definitely one - you think you like song? Food was definitely one of your favorite things in life. And I'm saying it was all good, but the majority of our times together in those days was just that. We hung out a lot. We were eating and dancing and hanging out and picking on one another. And that was environment that, basically, you were raised in.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

EL GRAN COMBO: (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

CHIDEYA: That was NEWS AND NOTES executive producer Nicole Childers, talking to Titi Marie about her favorite song, "Brujeria," by El Gran Combo.

(Soundbite of song, "Brujeria")

EL GRAN COMBO: (Singing in Spanish)

CHIDEYA: And that's our show for today. And thanks for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit npr.org/newsandnotes. And to join the conversation, visit our new blog, News & Views. Just check the link at the top of our Web page, and feel free to post about music, because we love it here. NEWS AND NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Radio Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, outgoing president of Morehouse, Walter Massey.

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