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Dublin: 17°C Friday 19 August 2022

One and a two and a three… Here’s how the Macarena swept the world

It all started at a private party in Venezuela…

Image: YouTube

IS IT ALREADY stuck in your head? Are your arms starting to move uncontrollably to your elbows, waist and head, or are you just humming it under your breath?

Though it was originally released in 1993, Macarena has the unique claim that it was an international hit for four consecutive years, between 1995 and 1998. Initially, it remained in the charts for 14 weeks. Even this week – people are still talking about it, and soon enough – they’ll be dancing to it at Electric Ireland’s Throwback Stage at Electric Picnic.

In 2002, nearly a decade after its first release, VHI ranked it the Greatest One-Hit Wonder of All Time and it also landed in the seventh spot of Billboard’s Greatest Of All Time Hot 100 Singles.

So, over 25 years after it’s first release – how can we explain the Macarena craze that gripped most of the 1990s and still makes a resurgence at weddings and matches to this day? The kids who grew up doing the Macarena are now heading to music festivals like Electric Picnic in their droves – and the song is as big as ever.

How did the song come about?

According to Billboard, it was a journey that “took four years, three countries, two Spaniards and a Miami DJ team” for the song to soar to the top of the charts on August 3, 1996. But it all started at a private party in Venezuela in 1992, held by businessman Gustavo Cisneros.

At the party in a hotel in Caracas, Sevillian duo Los Del Río (aka Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruíz Perdigones) had been inspired by a local flamenco dancer Diana Patricia Cubillán Herrera. When she performed for guests, Romero Monge recited the chorus on the spot as a tribute to her – calling her Magdalena, the Spanish name for Mary Magdalene.

So, how did it change to Macarena? In an interview with Venezuelan news site El Estímulo, Cubillán Herrera shares how the name was changed for its better rhyming qualities and in nod to the patroness of Seville, the Virgin of Hope of Macarena, or simply – La Macarena.

And why wasn’t the original a hit initially?

According to Canadian TV personality Richard Crouse’s book Who Wrote The Book Of Love, Los Del Río’s label weren’t initially crazy about the idea of releasing the song. With lyrics such as “Dale tu cuerpo alegria, Macarena” (“Give your body some joy, Macarena), they were worried it might be too racy for Spanish radio.

Eventually giving in, they released it in April 1993 with little or no publicity and it was a minor summer hit in Spain. It would be two years before it re-entered the charts as a hit, making it the slowest-rising pop single in history.

So, how did it get popular?

Flash forward to 1995, when Miami radio personality Jammin Johnny Caride was DJing at a club and was asked to play the song. When he took the song to his seniors at his radio station Power 96, they asked him to create an English-language version of the song.

Caride then teamed up with his partners at Bayside Records, Mike Triay and Carlos de Yarza to remix the original song and to add new lyrics in English. They added a new dance beat they hoped would appeal to British and American audience. 

The monologue in English which they added tells the story of a woman who rejects her soldier boyfriend Vitorino to spend time with his two best friends – something that still has people talking two decades later

By the time the song made it to the top of the charts in the summer of 1996, there were not one but three versions of the tune in the charts at the time – the original Los Del Río version, the Bayside Boys’ remix and a cover by Los Del Mar.

And how did the dance come about then?

The resulting video of the remix was directed by French director Vincent Calvet and featured Los Del Río performing on a white background surrounded by ten female dancers. One of the dancers was New York-born Mia Frye, who choreographed what would become one of the most recognisable dances of all time.

In Who Wrote The Book Of Love, Frye explains: “My main focus was to remove anything that was too fast. [...] I wanted to be sure that even a child with no sense of rhythm could dance The Macarena.”

In an interview with Le Parisien, Frye, who now lives in France, she explained how simplicity made the dance universal:

By focusing only on the upper body, I allowed everyone to dance the Macarena – from old people to girls in miniskirts in a night club – no one is ridiculous.

She added: “If you do it in the wrong order, it does not matter”. In fact, people often jump in the wrong direction at the end of the sequence, resulting in laughter – Frye wanted the dance to be laid-back and easy to get involved in.

The result? An extremely contagious dance whose track stayed in the chart for 60 weeks - and one we’ll never forget the moves to. The song is so powerful in fact that it could even save lives

Source: Electric Ireland/YouTube

Suddenly feeling nostalgic? Electric Ireland’s Throwback Stage at Electric Picnic has hosted throwback legends like S Club Party, The Vengaboys, Mark McCabe and 5ive, to name a few. And this year is no different with Bonnie Tyler, Mr Motivator and Lords of Strut performing and classic throwback movies screened during the day. To be in with a chance of winning tickets, keep an eye on Electric Ireland’s Instagram.

Sponsored by:

Electric Ireland

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