Friday, March 4, 2011

Our New Honduran Obsession

Or actually, a somewhat old obsession that has been recently rekindled. Yes, I’m talking about Honduras’ beloved national music idol and Claro spokesperson, POLACHE!

Where did it all begin? Hard to say really. We were introduced to his music during training, a national empowerment song called Mira Honduras, and were struck by the clever lyrics and soulfully raspy voice. The singer sounded like an older man, but after getting into reading the local newspaper we were struck by full page ad of the musician for Claro (cell phones, internet etc), rocking out on his guitar with jeans, a sleeveless tee and crisp straw cowboy hat, a lad in his mid-thirties perhaps in need of some orthodontia work. Before we knew what was happening, we proceeded to download his entire first album and were quickly enchanted. Polache, despite being of half English descent and named Paul Hughes (Pol-ache is for Paul H), is a real champion of Honduran culture and full of national pride. His songs use Honduran slang, caliche, to describe what life is really like here. The music is simultaneously upbeat, comical and thoughtful, making for pure listening pleasure. We were hooked.

Polache is not well-known at all outside this small country. Having grown up in Teguz and then relocating to San Pedro, he worked in an ad agency before a hit ad song he wrote sprung him only recently to nationally acclaimed fame. His music being so provincial, in a good way of course, his fans and following are limited to mostly locals. We can only imagine that vast majority of his gigs are small town festivals and soccer game intermissions, which together with some records on itunes provide him a decent living. It was such a festival that would bring us face to face with the rock star.

It was a weekend like most in La Esperanza, a chill hung in the air with the threat of rain hovering in clouds pressed against the mountains. But this weekend was a special treat, the Feria de Artesania de La Ruta Lenca, an homage to the artistic legacy that the Lenca people have maintained in this area of the country. It seemed more like a pupusa festival to us, vendors lining the streets selling their oozing pupusas surrounded by various art products, textiles, pottery, opals and a handful of other junk. Sidenote: Honduras is one of only a handful of countries that commercially mines a decent amount of opals, and the prices here compared to elsewhere are stunningly cheap. We bought four loose opals for less than $25, whereas one of them in Australia might have cost $100. So there we were, lazily strolling along when our ears perked up, the announcer had said something about Polache. We quickly asked a nearby vendor who confirmed that Polache was in fact coming to sing and sign autographs Sunday morning at 10 am! Disregarding the strange time of his visit, we decided then and there to be present.

So Sunday morning came. Our friends Pat and Megan had spent the night, and we ushered them up, through breakfast and out the door, anxious to get to the concert. We spent our waiting time discussing whether or not the sleeveless shirt and cowboy hat look was something that Polache himself contrived or whether it was a marketing stunt designed by Claro. I think we concluded it was of his own doing. Of course Polache didn’t arrive until nearly 11, but it was well worth the wait. What a stage presence! Every bit as entertaining, charming and genuine as we’d imagined, he wooed the crowd with favorites from his old CD and highlights of the new, interjected with his favorite word, ‘papita.’ At one point he even invited three women on-stage and proceeded to make up clever song lines about them using their names on the spot. The only thing lacking of course was the crowd. At 11 am on a Sunday morning, I’m surprised he even drew the small crowd he did, what with this being an extremely religiously devoted country. Hondurans seem to lack the spirit of concert participation so Polache’s call-and-response tactics, commentary and antics largely fell with a thud onto the motionless crowd. Of course there we were, front row, bopping along to the music, snapping pics and videos galore, like teenage girls at a boy band concert.

When the concert was over we rushed, amidst a group of 10 year olds mostly, to Polache’s side to get his illegible autograph on a mini Honduran flag, perhaps the closest we’d ever been to any type of celebrity. Then he was gone before we knew it, whisked away in his sparkling Toyota Tacoma, leaving a warm spot in our hearts that can only be filled with his captivating music until he returns to us. The obsession has been reignited! POLACHE! POLACHE!

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