This week’s update is all funny business since it involves songs that literally have people laughing!
Let’s start with the world famous ‘Mexican Hat Dance’! It’s a popular Mexican dance with a tune you may be very, very familiar with. The Mexican Hat Dance’s music is a combination of 2 tunes – ‘Jarabe Tapatío’ and ‘La Raspa’.
‘Jarabe Tapatío’ is a tune that was first composed by a professor of music in Guadalajara, Mexico named Jesús González Rubio in the mid-1800s (he died in 1874).
Here’s an instrumental version of ‘El Jarabe Tapatío’, from a 1925 record.
And, here is a vocal version, by Camille Howard, from 1949.
Now that you have heard one half of the ‘Mexican Hat Dance’, across an instrumental and vocal version, what Hindi film song does it remind you of?
Oh yes… ‘Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Rahi’, from the 1955 film Munimji, with music by S.D.Burman!
And what about the 2nd song that’s part of the ‘Mexican Hat Dance’, ‘La Raspa’? ‘La Raspa’ is a Mexican folk tune that originated in Veracruz.
Here’s ‘La Raspa’ for context, which is popular among piano students as a basic tune to learn:
When you mix ‘Jarabe Tapatío’ and ‘La Raspa’, you get the ‘Mexican Hat Dance’, as I had mentioned earlier. One such mixed variant was made incredibly popular by Edmundo Ros, the Trinidadian-Venezuelan musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader who made his career in Britain. Ros’s version was called ‘Mexican Merry-Go-Round’, as it appeared in his mid-50s album Latin-American Novelties.
‘La Raspa’ has another intriguing context! It seems to be the base melody for ‘The Laughing Song’, by George Washington Johnson, the first African-American recording star of the phonograph.
The 1896 recording of the song was added to the US Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2014, incidentally.
‘The Laughing Song’, however, was made popular in the 1920s by another American singer, Charles Penrose. Charles’ song was called ‘The Laughing Policeman’, and he performed this under the pseudonym ‘Charles Jolly’. The composition of the song was officially credited to his wife Mabel under the pseudonym ‘Billie Grey’, even though it was nothing but George Washington Johnson’s ‘The Laughing Song’.
When you mix The Laughing Song’s melody, that has its roots in ‘La Raspa’, and the laugh style of the song, you get an incredibly famous South Indian song that is considered legendary in Telugu and Tamil. That song is ‘Vivaha Bhojanambu’ from the 1957 Telugu cult classic Maya Bazaar. The song is ‘Kalyana Samayal Saadham’, in the Tamil version of the film.
The ‘Ha ha ha-ha ha-ha ha’ phrase from the song that is so very popular (also the main tune of the song) seems to be in the same tune as ‘La Raspa’, a part of ‘Mexican Hat Dance’, while also alluding directly to George Washington Johnson and Charles Penrose’s songs that include similar in-song laughter!
Let me muddle things up for you by adding that Edmundo Ros has a ‘laughing’ song too, and it doesn’t have a tune tracing back to ‘La Raspa’ or ‘Mexican Hat Dance’. Its called ‘Laughing Samba’, and has a similar in-song laugh track!