Who lambada’d it better?

I was at the gym last night, and a song came on that was vaguely familiar. It was a dance song, and the familiar part occurred only during the chorus. I wobbled with distraction trying to figure out who they were sampling. I made an effort to memorize the lyrics (something about “dance the night away”) so that I could look it up later. But then right as the song faded, I figured it out! They were remixing Sun City Girls! Specifically, “The Shining Path” from their 1990 album, Torch of the Mystics.

This struck me as the most bizarre thing ever. Sun City Girls were an experimental psych band with a tendency toward pastiche. Many of their albums are annoyingly hard to find (especially the singles). But Torch of the Mystics is their most well-regarded (and most accessible) album… so who knows, maybe this dance/house artist happened across it and decided to sample it?

The Shining Path is my favorite song on the album – and it’s certainly the catchiest – but I’d never taken the time to dig into its background. Like many of their songs, it uses the sounds/melodies/instruments from some far off, seemingly-exotic locale (but still, I assumed it was an original song). It begins with a old western-sounding whistle, accompanied by minimal guitar and drums, with expressive Spanish vocals. Some sort of pan flute carries between the verses.

The youtube comments for the song quickly revealed to me both the origin of the tune, and the dance revision. The original is a Bolivian folk song called Llorando se Fue, by Los Kjarkas (1981). It reached greater popularity in 1989 when it was remixed/gaffled by a French group called Kaoma. As you can see from that wiki entry, the song already had a rich history of dance hall remixes. The Sun City Girls version was recorded in 1988 and released in 1990. And then last year (2011) Jennifer Lopez remixed it in “her” song, On The Floor. I was hearing the J. Lo version at the gym, of course.

Here are all four versions. And scroll down for some bonus pictures of Sun City Girls.

The original lambada, Llorando se Fue (1982):

Kaoma – Lambada (1989):

Sun City Girls – The Shining Path (1990):

And Jennifer Lopez, ft Pitbull:

The Sun City Girls version is still my favorite. The original is a close second. J Lo’s version is terrible.

Here are some photos of Sun City Girls. This was from a show they played in Los Angeles, right around Halloween (in 2003, I believe). Six Organs of Admittance opened up for them (if I’m remembering correctly! He was playing solo). This was a really great show. My friend David took these pictures.

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