Joseph Fonseca Writes Song About Generators During Power Outage In Puerto Rico In Puerto Rico, some people without power are relying on generators for electricity. Merengue singer Joseph Fonseca was inspired by the rumble of those machines, which led to his latest hit song.
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In Puerto Rico, A Generator's Buzz Powers One Singer's Musical Imagination

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In Puerto Rico, A Generator's Buzz Powers One Singer's Musical Imagination

In Puerto Rico, A Generator's Buzz Powers One Singer's Musical Imagination

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RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

After Harvey and Irma, the hurricane season wasn't over. Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico as a massive Category 4 storm. Months later, the power supply is still spotty, and thousands of homes still rely on generators. Daniella Cheslow has the story of how the rumble of a generator inspired one merengue singer to write a holiday hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF GENERATOR RUNNING)

DANIELLA CHESLOW, BYLINE: Generators are the new soundtrack of Puerto Rico's holiday season. They power homes, hospitals, stores.

JOSEPH FONSECA: And the sound (imitating generator running) - this is the inspiration for writing this song (laughter).

CHESLOW: Singer Joseph Fonseca thought he was prepared for hurricane season. He owned a propane generator and rolled it out when Hurricane Irma hit in early September and knocked out his electricity.

FONSECA: When starting the propane generator - not working.

CHESLOW: What sound did it make?

FONSECA: (Imitating generator running) - big, sound (laughter).

CHESLOW: Not a good sound?

FONSECA: No, no. Not a good sound, no.

CHESLOW: No there was no repairman who could fix the machine because a second hurricane, Maria, was already on its way. So Fonseca bought a new machine.

Did it work?

FONSECA: Yes, push button for him (imitating generator running).

CHESLOW: After Maria completely wiped out the island's electric grid, he depended on that generator and listened to the loud noise, and he wrote a song about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA PLANTA NUEVA")

FONSECA: (Singing in Spanish).

The chorus is (speaking Spanish).

CHESLOW: It means - I will ask the three kings to bring me a new generator, and when I turn it on, it shouldn't make this noise.

FONSECA: (Imitating generator running).

CHESLOW: In Puerto Rico, January 6 is Three Kings Day, a religious festival celebrating the story of the three wise men with parades and presents. I watched Fonseca perform last week at a Christmas party in San Juan, the capital. He takes the stage while men in crisp shirts and women in elegant evening gowns sit at round tables. The first song, "La Planta Nueva" - "The New Generator."

FONSECA: (Singing in Spanish).

CHESLOW: Fonseca has a generator dance where he pretends to pull a cord to start the machine. Couples hold hands and dance to the choppy beat. Outside, Melvin Munic drinks a mojito.

MELVIN MUNIC: This is our life right now in Puerto Rico.

CHESLOW: He lives south of San Juan, and he still doesn't have power.

MUNIC: I hope we have electricity before New Year.

CHESLOW: Many people won't get power back anytime soon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will take until late February at the earliest to restore most of the grid, longer for remote towns. Fonseca says he hopes Puerto Ricans suffering through the slow recovery might hear his song and have some holiday joy. For NPR News, I'm Daniella Cheslow in San Juan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA PLANTA NUEVA")

FONSECA: (Singing in Spanish).

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