Spanish for: “Let’s go to the beach.”
“Do you remember that song, Vamos a la Playa? You guys used to play it all the time.” My younger cousin was looking at me curiously as I sat in his lounge for my first visit ever. His four-year old son was still up, leaning against his mother having refused to go to bed early that holiday. My mum was having a nightcap as we all listened to old and new music.
“Yes, I remember,” I grinned back, thinking of my wee brother’s Eurodance tendencies back in the eighties.
“Oh, no! I can’t believe it!” went my cousin’s wife. “He’s always telling me about that song and I kept telling him he made it up!”
We all laughed. Then we searched for it online. And found it. We played the Youtube video, half cringeing at the awful colours and New Romantics dancing. But it did bring back memories, and made some new ones.
Many, many years ago, when people thought nothing of wearing oddly patterned neon everywhere along with big hairdo’s, mullets and slinkies on their wrists; back when South Africa was 18 months to 2 years behind in music, fashion and movies, I was young and my cousin younger.
I was just discovering Brit Pop and Alternative music, and my brother was discovering Rock and Eurodance; while my sister was heavily into Rick Astley and Sting – simultaneously. We tended to visit our extended family most weekends back then. All this meant that our impressionable little cousins were also discovering music along with us. Enter Vamos a la Playa.
My cousin and his twin, before the age of seven, spent some holidays with us and us with them. Twice we went to Port St Johns – a long, tedious epic drive along the wild coast and down through Umtata, then onto a corrugated road into the little haven which was once the home of laidback and Capital Radio 604.
During this holiday, we would sometimes put the twin’s floaters on their head and pretend they were in the Big Corn Bites commercial – the whole Mexican/South American theme.
Fast forward a couple of years to when the twins were seven or eight and my brother seriously into Eurodance and later Jackmix. A couple of hours into the twin’s visit and they were singing: ‘Vamos a la playa, uh, oh, oh, oh.’ We had no idea what it meant. We didn’t care. It was just as much fun as Tarzan Boy and anything by Amazulu. It was so much better than Silver Pozolli too! And the twins just loved it. It was their new favourite song! Weeks later, their father was often heard to boom,
“What’s this Vamos a la Playa the boys keep singing?”
Fast Forward thirty years later, and younger twin’s playing ‘Vamos a la Playa’ to us – his disbelieving, highly amused wife; my mother who couldn’t stop giggling, myself and his delighted four-year old.
“Vamos a la Playa, uh, oh, oh, oh,” sang his son, much like he used to.
It was fun.
“What shall we listen to next?” asked my cousin.
“I want to listen to the vermicelli song,” declared his son.
We played “Vamos a la Playa’ again, and my little nephew sang along. Three minutes later, he wanted to listen to it again. His mother said, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. He’s going to be singing it all the time.”
But she smiled, and I could imagine my uncle going again, “What’s this Vamos a la Playa he keeps singing?”
“Ok,” my cousin said to his son, “but first we’ll listen to something else.”
“Play Jika,” suggested his wife, “You’ll dance for us, won’t you Mik?”
Little Mik agreed. He loves Jika too (he’s got excellent, wide-ranging taste in music for a one so young). This was the first time I had seen the video and the dance as I had been in China when it was a huge hit over here in South Africa. The little guy danced to the video proudly. It was brilliant! We all cheered at the end.
Then: “Dad, I want the Vamma…the Vammo song.”
“Ok, but just one more time.”
His son looked like he was going to argue and his mother stepped in.
“Just one more time and I’ll download it for you, ok?”
So we watched ‘Vamos a la Playa’ with accompanying four-year old vocals just one more time that night. Later, my cousin and his wife went, “uh, oh, oh, oh,” till long after bedtime. Like my cousin, his son just couldn’t stop singing it.
What I really liked about that night was knowing that I could still bond with my cousin and his family over music. I had been away for so long (both abroad and in different cities to my cousin) that I didn’t really know him well as an adult. It was great to get to know his family. We had abandoned a movie in favour of music, a sharing of generations, musical tastes, old memories and the building of wonderful new ones. It was one of the hours which made the last week of 2014 so memorable for me – even without the beach. Jika is now one of my new favourite, favourite songs. All I have to do now is get my little nephew to teach me the dance 😀