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Los Del Rio: The making of ‘Macarena,’ the Spanish smash hit that got the world dancing | Culture

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In 1996, the whole world got swept up in Macarena madness. The original flamenco hit composed by the Seville duo known as Los del Río – made up of Antonio Romero and Rafael Ruiz – had already rocketed up the charts in Spain in 1993. But the Bayside Boys’ dance remix, which incorporated female vocals in English, stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks that summer and remained on the charts for 66 weeks.

As the most influential music barometer in the world, it was an amazing feat for the middle-aged crooners, trumped only in 2017 by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee who enlisted Justin Bieber to collaborate in a Spanglish version of Despacito, which topped the US charts for a record-breaking 16 weeks. However, no one can argue that what these two friends from the Seville town of Dos Hermanas achieved was phenomenal.

Speaking just a few words of English and with the internet still in its infancy, Los Del Río revolutionized the world’s largest and most competitive music market with their danceable ditty. The facts speak for themselves. A quarter of a century ago, Macarena was played at the Democratic National Convention with Hillary Clinton clapping along; it was also used by the US women’s gymnastics team at the Atlanta Olympics. Among other surreal achievements, the duo performed it on January 26, 1997, at the Super Bowl before a live audience of more than 70,000 spectators and tens of millions of viewers at home.

Perhaps it all got out of hand? “Not at all,” says Romero. “We never panicked because at that point we’d already had a 30-year-long career and had dealt with many, many difficulties. We started out when we were 14 and, being young, played at both singing and bullfighting. It wasn’t until our fathers died that we said to ourselves: ‘We have no choice but to take this music thing seriously.’ Basically because it was the only thing that gave us money that could help our mothers. That was the biggest sacrifice we could make.”

The duo had other hits in Spain such as Sevilla tiene un color especial or Se te nota en la mirada, but outside of Spain they are considered one-hit wonders. Not that at the age of 73, this ruffles their feathers. As Romero points out, “becoming number one on five continents is tremendously difficult. It’s not the norm. Just as Spain has only won the World Cup once, we have fortunately been able to be the world champions in terms of music. We are always being asked when we are going to compose another Macarena, to which we reply that we have already done it. Let others have a go. What we have to do now is to live and enjoy ourselves.”

While it is the anniversary of the song’s remix, it is worth remembering that the original was released on the duo’s 1993 album A mí me gusta. The catchy lyrics came to Romero when he and Ruiz were invited to a party at the end of 1992 by the businessman Gustavo Cisneros in Caracas, Venezuela, where they rubbed shoulders with the Venezuelan president at the time, Carlos Andrés Pérez, and a local flamenco dancer named Diana Patricia Cubillán Herrera.

“The young woman [Patricia Cubillán] started dancing and I told her: ‘Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Magdalena, que tu cuerpo es pa’ darle alegría y cosa buena’ – put some joy in your body Magdalena, as your body is made to be given joy and good things.’ That’s what inspired me to write it,” says Romero. “But since I have a daughter named Esperanza Macarena, I decided to change Magdalena to Macarena.”

According to Ruiz, “She [Patricia Cubillán] has done very well out of it because, being our muse, she has been able to tell everyone that she is the real Macarena. Far from hiding her identity, we have been very open about it. We think it’s great that she has taken advantage of what happened that day to open her own dance school and get a role in a soap opera. It brings back some wonderful memories. We just hope she is doing well in Venezuela because she and her family are a delight.”

Another remix was done in the 1990s by the Spanish duo Fangoria, comprised of Alaska and Nacho Canut, before the song’s US success. They claimed they were due money and took the matter through the courts as far as Strasbourg. “When Macarena hit the big time, everyone wanted to get on board,” says Ruiz. Decades later, the Fangoria issue continues to be one they prefer not to discuss. Meanwhile, Alaska had this to say in a 2013 Vanity Fair interview: “Macarena triumphed in Spain in 1993. As Fangoria, we did a remix and that remix triumphed again in Spain. Then in Miami, suddenly, they used our remix and added some vocals. It’s not that it was a whole other remix; it was ours! That went to the European courts, but it was thrown out, so there’s nothing to be done.”

Los del Río, however, have stressed that there is no animosity towards Fangoria. While talking about the issue in 2017 on the Bertín Osborne talk show, they insisted, “We adore Alaska!”

Los del Río playing the guitar at the villa in Utrera where they are acting as hosts.
Los del Río playing the guitar at the villa in Utrera where they are acting as hosts.Majareta Studio

Whatever the truth of the matter, the remix that the Bayside Boys put out as theirs flung the doors wide open to success on the other side of the pond. Producers Mike Triay and Carlos de Yarza recorded the version in 1995 with the help of vocalist Patty Alfaro. Initially, it failed to gain the approval of Los del Riós’ record label, BMG/Ariola, which even threatened to sue them. However, since it was played incessantly on radio stations like Power 96 or New York’s WKTU, the label came round, realizing it was media coverage that it couldn’t afford to forego, though the small print on the contract is completely unknown.

Even more surreal is the fact that Macarena could have become an even bigger hit than it was. Or, at least, it was on the cards when Michael Jackson expressed an interest in recording a new version with Los del Río. “He was crazy about our song and used to play it before starting his shows to warm up his audience,” says Romero. “His lawyer contacted us and told us that Miguel, as he called him, really wanted to work with us. He told us that he was on medical treatment and that when he recovered we would take things forward. That was six or eight months before he went into decline and left us. He was very excited about it, but it wasn’t to be.”

In 2016, Los del Río collaborated with the band Gente de Zona with Más Macarena. And, incredible as it may seem, in 2019 they received a call from the American rapper Tyga asking them to collaborate in the viral Ayy Macarena, which has more than 150 million views on YouTube. Romero believes Michael Jackson might have had a hand in this. “Look, I think that wherever Miguel is, as his lawyer said, he had something to do with it, like ‘maybe not with me, but certainly with someone else,’” he says.

Much has been written about whether Los del Río are millionaires thanks to the fact they came up with the flagship version of Macarena. They continue to earn an unknown amount in royalties and songwriter’s rights. When questioned about it, they attempt a graceful brush-off. But, eventually, they address the issue. “Why don’t you contact the publisher?” says Romero. “As the songwriter, they demanded that I give them 50% to sell it and boost its popularity. What should be on the table is how many people have benefited from Macarena independently of us. I don’t mean we are about to cry and feel sorry for ourselves. We have been given what I think we deserve, but that doesn’t mean that it reflects the actual reality.”

At this point, Ruiz intervenes: “Besides all that, Antonio split the proceeds 50-50 with me,” he says. “And for the first two years, we had to pay over half of the profits in taxes.”

According to Romero, “what makes us wealthy is not Macarena, it’s our families. We have wonderful children and lovely grandchildren who are already starting to come out and sing better than we do. Humility in life is what always triumphs. There is nothing more important or rich than being humble. We have learned that from our parents, who were hard workers. Regardless of how much time has gone by, we continue to have fun singing, and we do it with the same desire we had at the start – to make the world a happier place.”

Macarena is still very much alive and kicking. As if further proof were needed, Los del Río have teamed up with Airbnb and, this August, will take on the role of hosts at a rental villa in Utrera, a city in the southern province of Seville. The first four guests, who confirmed their reservation this week, will not only be welcomed by these legendary artists, they will also have access to a private karaoke room full of Spanish guitars and will even get tips from the duo on how to perfect the choreography of the famous song. “We’re also going to teach them how to make a good gazpacho,” says Romero.

“The house is not our property,” he adds. “It belongs to some friends with whom we often do a house exchange. We still don’t know who will be coming, but I assure you that they will get a very special welcome. They’re going to have a wonderful time!” It goes without saying that Macarena will be part of the experience, though guests will have to wait and see which version is rolled out.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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Rule number one of ‘Fight Club’ in China: The police always win | USA

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The first rule of Fight Club in China is that the police always beat the criminals. The second rule is that buildings are not demolished. And the third is that if the ending is considered unsuitable, change it.

David Fincher’s 1999 cult film, which was shown just once in Chinese theaters during an edition of the Shanghai Film Festival, is now available on tech giant Tencent’s streaming services in China. But with a different outcome. Warning this article contains spoilers.

In the original, the narrator, played by Edward Norton, has just “killed” his imaginary alter ego, Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, and watches the explosion of several nearby buildings with his girlfriend Maria, played by Helena Bonham-Carter. The anarchist revolution advocated by Durden is underway.

In Tencent’s version, on the other hand, there are no explosions and no scenes of Tyler and Maria holding hands as they watch the destruction. Instead, the screen turns black and writing appears, explaining that the police “arrested all the criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.” According to this alternative ending, Durden is sent to a psychiatric hospital, from which he is released in 2012. Screenshots of the new ending went viral last weekend in China, with comments mocking the changes. Although the film was shown just briefly in movie theaters, many fans have been able to watch pirated versions of the original over the past two decades, and considered the ending one of the film’s fortes.

“When a director comes to present his film in China, people will ask: director, why is your film so avant-garde that it completely dispenses with audiovisual language, ending it instead with just a poster and a story about respecting the law? Is it a satire on censorship in your country? And the director will answer: What? I filmed that?” wrote one user of Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. “Probably everyone in Ocean’s Eleven would also get arrested. And the whole Godfather family, too,” scoffed another. “But the ending was great! A bunch of foreigners in a terrible situation setting off terrorist bombs – a perfect scene to encourage [Chinese] nationalism,” joked another.

(l-r) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee in 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' another movie that was altered for audiences in China.
(l-r) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ another movie that was altered for audiences in China.

It is unclear whether it was Tencent or the film’s original producers who made the changes. On the Chinese movie review platform Douban, the original film is rated nine out of 10 and has 744,000 comments.

China currently has a flourishing movie market, one in which just over 30 foreign films are released on the big screen each year. In fact, it overtook the US market for the first time in 2020, due in part to a quicker recovery from the pandemic. And, according to research portal researchandmarkets.com, it is expected to gross $16.5 billion by 2026, annual growth of 30.1%, with respect to the $3.4 billion in 2020.

Within this market, Fight Club is not the only Hollywood movie to be changed. In 2019, scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody that alluded to Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality were carefully cut out in the Chinese version. While same-sex relationships are not illegal in the world’s second-largest economy, it is considered a sensitive issue and scenes portraying it are often, but not always, removed. Theoretically, they have been banned on television and also on streaming platforms since 2017.

The ending of ‘Lord of War,’ starring Nicholas Cage, was also altered in China.
The ending of ‘Lord of War,’ starring Nicholas Cage, was also altered in China.

Lord of War (2005) endured a similar fate to that of Fight Club. In its original version, the main character, an arms dealer played by Nicholas Cage, manages to escape prison and resume business. The film alludes to the fact that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council ­– the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – are the planet’s main arms dealers. But the version for the Chinese market, which is half an hour shorter than the international version, removes the original ending and replaces it with a text stating that the Cage “confessed to all the crimes of which he was officially accused during the trial, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.”

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High Court orders man to repay €30,000 awarded over fall on slippery tiles

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The High Court has ordered a man who fell on slippery tiles on the porch of his rented council home to pay back €30,000 he received in part compensation.

Mr Justice John Jordan also ordered solicitors who acted for Thomas Keegan (53) to repay €20,000 received in part payment of fees.

The judge made the order in relation to monies paid by Sligo County Council as a condition of being allowed to appeal a €105,000 award made by the High Court in 2017 to Mr Keegan over the accident at his home at McNeill Drive, Cranmore, Co Sligo.

Mr Keegan, who previously worked as a paver, had claimed the slippiness of the terracotta tiling originally installed in the porch, as well as the angle of the porch to face the prevailing wind and rain in Sligo, created a particular hazard.

In 2017, the court found the council was liable and there was no contributory negligence on Mr Keegan’s part.

However, the council was permitted to appeal on the basis of paying €50,000, including the monies to Mr Keegan’s solicitors on his behalf.

Failed to prove

The Court of Appeal (CoA) ordered a retrial and, earlier this month, Mr Justice Jordan found that the plaintiff had failed to prove the council was “in any way responsible” for the accident. He also found it “artificial” for Mr Keegan to suggest he was a visitor to his home, which he rented and occupied.

The case came back before Mr Justice Jordan on Friday for the matter of costs in relation to the second High Court hearing.

Peter Bland SC, for the council, argued his client was entitled to those costs but he had no objection to a stay in the event of another appeal to the CoA. He sought the repayment of the €30,000 for Mr Keegan and the €20,000 for his solicitors given the outcome had been overturned.

John Finlay SC, for Mr Keegan, said he could not oppose the costs order or an order for the return of the monies.

Mr Justice Jordan granted the council its costs for the retrial with the exception of one day’s costs related to the evidence of an expert introduced by the council “who made a difference” to the case.

It was unfortunate the council did not engage this expert at an initial stage in the case and Mr Keegan might have been spared all of this time and expense that followed, he said.

Difficulties

He also ordered the return of the monies paid out but noted that if the council had difficulties with that money being paid as a condition of it being allowed to appeal, it could have appealed that matter itself but it did not.

The court heard the accident occurred on November 18th, 2013, when Mr Keegan was returning home sometime after 5pm after visiting a number of pubs in which he had consumed five pints of Guinness.

He suffered a significant injury to his left ankle, with X-rays revealing a fracture to his left distal tibia and fibula.

The council did not argue the consumption of this level of drink was an act of contributory negligence but argued it as a factor in regard to Mr Keegan’s duty to take reasonable care for his own safety and in his conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.

Having heard expert evidence, Mr Justice Jordan was satisfied the unglazed tiles did not pose a danger.

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Two fans sue Universal for $5 million for cutting Ana de Armas out of ‘Yesterday’ | USA

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There are risks to being an actor. A common one is what’s known in the industry as “winding up on the cutting room floor.” You get hired for a project, and based on the script you’ve read and the time that you spend on the set, you assume that you are one of the characters; that is, until the day the movie is released and you realize that your scenes have been cut out entirely.

In the case of the Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas, who featured in the latest James Bond movie No Time to Die and is on an unstoppable path towards Hollywood stardom, it went further than that: she actually appeared in movie trailers advertising Yesterday, a 2019 film by the British director Danny Boyle in which actor Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter who wakes up after an accident into a world where nobody has heard of the Beatles or knows any of their songs, except himself.

Almost three years after Yesterday’s release, two fans of de Armas are suing Universal Pictures for cutting her scenes out of the final version, claiming the studio engaged in “false, deceptive and misleading advertising.”

Conor Woulfe, a 38-year-old resident of Maryland, and Peter Michael Rosza, 44, from California, rented Yesterday on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 (€3,52). In their federal class action lawsuit, they claimed that they only rented it because they thought De Armas would be in the movie after watching the trailer. In the promotional material, she is depicted as Roxane, a character who becomes a love interest for Malik – that is, until the movie creators realized that this would draw attention away from the main love story between the songwriter and a character played by Lily James.

It is unclear whether the plaintiffs are as interested in De Armas as they may be in the $5 million (€4.5 million) they could take home if a court rules in their favor. The lawsuit states that the case is being brought “individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated.” It also claims that “by paying to view the falsely advertised movie,” the plaintiffs “suffered injury-in-fact and lost money.”

Regardless of the case’s chances, the story illustrates a US penchant for resolving disputes in court with astronomical figures in the balance, as a first step in the conversation.

The entertainment news website Variety, which first reported on the case, noted the resemblance with a 2011 case brought in Michigan by a movie viewer who was disappointed with Drive, by Nicolas Winding Refn, which she expected to be a “high-speed action driving film” but turned out to be a tortured drama about a solitary driver who finally finds the right girl.

Cutting actors out of final versions is nothing unusual. Terrence Malick, the director of Badlands and The Tree of Life, has a habit of hiring more stars than he will later need on the screen. Adrien Brody, for example, showed up for the premiere of the 1998 The Thin Red Line, convinced that he would be one of the main attractions – in the end, he only showed up in a few scenes. But the prize probably goes to To The Wonder, also by Malick: Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper and Michael Shannon all wound up on the cutting room floor.

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