“Let’s say I’m talking about Madrid” This is a song of love and hate for this city, as described by its author, Joaquín Sabina. Since you’ll be spending some time in Madrid, you may want to know everything about it, the good and the… not so good. Here I will translate and explain some of its verses.
Visit this link to read the lyrics, and listen to its different versions in the videos below.
“Pongamos que hablo de Madrid” (1980)
Original version: Lyrics by Joaquín Sabina. Music by Antonio Sánchez
Rock version, by Antonio Flores:
All roads cross this city. A great number of people in Madrid are not from Madrid. Many people who live here will even call themselves madrileños when in fact they were born somewhere else. I dare you to find a single madrileño whose four grandparents are originally from Madrid ;). Families from smaller towns often send their children to college in Madrid and they end up staying. This crossing of roads also references that the city is the capital of the country and geographically centric in Spain, so for many reasons: all roads cross Madrid.
Where the sea is unconceivable. If there are two rival cities in this country they’d be Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s second city. One of the major points for Barcelona is that it has a beach. Madrid has no coast, but it has many other things, as you’ll soon discover.
Desire travels in elevators. The capital is a metropolis, it is a vertical city, with businessmen in tall buildings.
Girls don’t want to be princesses anymore. Like in most cities, feminism has changed the lifestyle of the women since 1975 (end of a 40-year conservative dictatorship).
Birds visit their psychiatrist. Madrid, with all its wonders, is also full of all the troubles a large city entails.
Stars forget to come out at night. A big city has a nocturnal light of its own. So many city lights make it impossible to watch the stars in Madrid. Many madrileños go away for the weekend every once in a while to get in touch with nature and look up at night.
The sun is a gas stove. Summer in Madrid is dry and hot. Very hot. Especially in August, the population of the city suffers an anomaly: madrileños leave, they’re nowhere to be found in Madrid. They usually flee to the coast, and the city is instead filled with tourists from all over the world.
There’s a syringe in the restroom. During a few years when this song was written (the 80s), there was a serious problem with drug addiction in Madrid and many other cities in Spain. Fortunately, that is over now and Madrid is a safe and healthy city.
Life is a subway about to leave. We learn Madrid has a subway system, in fact an entire public transport system that works very well. You’ll know it by heart soon enough! Hopping on and off the train wagons, this talks about the hustle of life in the big city.
When death comes for me, take me south where I was born. This talks about what we mentioned earlier, many people living in Madrid are not from here.
A later version of this song actually re-writes that last part. The person decides not to leave Madrid in the end:
When death comes for me, don’t wake me, let me sleep. This is where I’ve lived and here I’ll stay. Madrileños, whether they were born here or elsewhere, they feel like they belong here. And they even write songs about how much they hate and love Madrid.
Now, I can’t wait to have your feedback. Hate it or love it? I have a feeling it will be the L word.
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