El Niagara en Bicicleta (1998) – Juan Luis Guerra

“El Niágara en Bicicleta” (Niagara Falls on a Bicycle) is a song written and performed by Dominican singer-songwriter Juan Luis Guerra. It is the fifth song to appear here from this immensely popular Latin music-artist. He single-handedly immersed his native-music genre Bachata into the wider Latin audience. Today’s featured song won the grammy in 2000 for best tropical song – ‘tropical’ being that from Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries.

The song’s title Niagara Falls on a Bicycle is a Dominican metaphor meaning to overcome a difficult situation. There are many idioms/regionalisms like this in the Latin culture including here in Colombia ‘Ganarse la papa’ (Earn the Potato) – ‘to bring home the bacon’ or to earn a living and ‘Sigo en la lucha’ (I’m still in the fight) – ‘I’m keeping on keeping on’ or ‘putting up a good fight’.

A loose English excerpt from the song follows:

Someone have mercy on me!
I screamed losing consciousness
And a nurse came up to my ear and said:
‘Easy Bobby, easy’.

Ben caressed me with his hands and said:
What’s wrong Athlete?
And I told him in great detail what had happened to me
We have to check your pressure
But the room is busy, and my dear
In this hospital there is no electricity for an Electrocardiogram.

This song was based on Juan’s experience he had in a hospital attending for his high bilirubin. The music video below takes place in a hospital after a person had an accident on a bicycle (and the Dear Ben nurse has turned into a woman). Due to a lack of supplies however, the person is asked to wait for his turn in a long line of people. This video is so smart how it includes Juan in instants and the chorus is about the best I have heard.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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