North·Music That Matters

Music for the armchair traveller

Dawson City's Maria Sol Suarez Martinez shares five songs she loves, even though she doesn't really know what most of the lyrics mean.

Maria Sol Suarez Martinez takes a musical trip around the world

Dawson City's Maria Sol Suarez Martinez, originally from Argentina, listens to music in different languages from around the world. (Photo submitted by Maria Sol Suarez Martinez)

This story is part of a web series called Music that Matters with CBC Yukon's Airplay host Dave White. Dave sits down with Yukoners to talk about five pieces of music that inspire them. 

Maria Sol Suarez Martinez is a true global citizen.

After growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Suarez Martinez made a few stops before settling down in Dawson City.

But music has been a part of her life wherever she calls home, and that music comes from all over.

"Where I'm from in Argentina, we have all the same English language music, but also a lot of different languages," she said. "In Argentina, it's 50 per cent music in Spanish and 50 per cent music from everywhere else, so there's this phenomenon that happens where you don't know what the lyrics are saying but you sing anyway, you sing along phonetically. It's kind of like a national pastime."

Her first song, Prisencolinensinainciusol, is by Italian singer Adrian Celentano, whom she calls a national treasure.

"He created this song to illustrate how rock and roll music from the United States would sound to a non-English speaker," said Suarez Martinez. "So the song is gibberish, complete gibberish, except for the word 'alright,' which they say quite often.

Suarez Martinez's second choice was a French song, C'est la ouate, that she's been listening to since she was young. 

"I was doing karaoke at a gay bar in Montreal, in the village," she said. "I saw that most of the songs in the book were in French and then I saw this one and I said, 'I know this one.' I never actually looked up the lyrics, but I knew it perfectly phonetically, because I grew up with it."

"This next one is more like my youth, my teenage years," she said.

"Whenever anyone put this song on, everyone would pretend to know how to 'Arab dance" or belly dance. It was crazy popular, nobody knew what it said, but everyone would get excited when it came on."

Suarez Martinez's family roots are in Spain, and she said that's why she had to choose Bamboléo by The Gypsy Kings.

"You play this around anyone of Spanish descent and we just loose our heads, and rightfully so because it's a great song," she said. "And it's also a rare instance of music from the Roma community becoming a huge hit, a global song."

Before moving to her final choice, Suarez Martinez felt she had to give an honourable mention to The Lambada, which she described as an "inescapable" part of her youth.

For her final selection, she brought everything full circle with another song that makes absolutely no sense. Disco Samba is actually a medley of Brazilian songs that she said is still the ultimate party song throughout South America.

"I felt that it was my contribution to Yukon listeners to discover this magical song that can fix anything and put a smile on your face, even if you don't know what it's saying," she said.