CULTURE

Spanish pop sensation brings its light-hearted fun to Greece

Their dad, Jose Fernandez Torres – known as «El Tomate» – a seasoned flamenco guitarist, has been involved in Spain’s fiery Andalucian musical form for years, but his three daughters thought they’d have some lighter-hearted fun instead. Their choice, a crack at the pop music world which began as a joke last spring, has led the fun-pop trio to phenomenal, and unanticipated, success, all cooked up by just one song, their runaway hit «Asereje» (or «The Ketchup Song»). From Dad, the siblings extracted Las Ketchup as their artistic name, before serving up their nonsensical, yet very catch tune, initially to Spaniards, then to the world. Several months later, the initiative’s commercial success has reached epidemic proportions. Their infectious, happy-go-lucky hit song, one that apparently even makes toddlers smile and move, has topped charts in 17 countries, including Greece, whose young fans and accompanying parents will greet the saucy trio for two shows – tomorrow (8 p.m., 25 euros) at the the capital’s Plus Soda club (161 Ermou, tel 210.345.6187) and Thursday at the Sachi Club in Thessaloniki (25 Aggelaki, tel 2310.222.122). Widely considered a surprise hit, the song, in fact, comes as the latest Latin-beat invader of international charts. The previous decade saw «Lambada» ambush international pop charts, and more recently in 1996, «La Macarena,» from the compatriot duo Los Del Rio, did likewise. But, unlike those two, the heavy airplay of «Asereje,» fans and non-fans seem to agree, is far less irritating. As elsewhere in the world, the three sisters, Lola, Lucia and Pilar Munoz, have registered incredible sales figures here. The Spanish trio’s single has sold some 50,000 copies in Greece since the summer, helping generate sales of 8,000 units – and rising – for their «Hijas del Tomate» album. The catchy hit single, written by Cordoban songwriter and producer Manuel Ruiz «Queco,» tells the story of Diego, a young, fashion-conscious Gypsy clubber with Rastafarian leanings. His love for hip-hop, and the language barrier that keeps him from working out the words to his favorite tune, «Rapper’s Delight,» an old-school rap classic by the Sugarhill Gang, prompts Diego to rap along his own way in made-up Andalucian rap: «Asereje, ja deje, dejebe tu dejebe deseri iowa a mavy an de bugui an de guidibidi,» is what young Diego makes of the Sugarhill Gang’s just-as-senseless «I said a hip, hop you don’t stop…» The act’s popularity has not been affected. «We weren’t expecting to be a success even in Spain,» Lola Munoz told The New York Times in a recent interview. «We went into the recording studio almost as a joke. But the single began to get radio play and everyone liked it, so we finished the album very quickly and set out to do a lot of promotion in Spain.» Until a year ago, the girls from Cordoba, southern Spain, had never joined musical forces before. Pilar maintains that, above all, she is an actress, and Lola mentions that she was absorbed in her studies before the «Asereje» hysteria broke out. Relatively closer to the «Las Ketchup» phenomenon, the third sister, Lucia, had begun singing flamenco with plans of focusing on music. Besides astonishing the three sisters, the overwhelming success of «Asereje» has even served to prove industry pundits wrong. Some had predicted that all the fuss would be over by late summer. But, now, just weeks away from Christmas, the «Asereje» single and «Hijas del Tomate» album are showing no signs of sales fatigue. Moreover, the trio has just completed a tour of the USA, launched an English version of their album, and are set to release a second single, «Kusha las Payas.» This one they wrote themselves, but again, nonsensical lyrics are again part of the package. «Kusha» means nothing, but «las Payas» means «non-Gypsy.» Ephemeral pop? Most likely. But this Spanish trio’s ketchup hasn’t run dry yet.