Code-mixing in Music

Royal Sequiera, Microsoft Research India

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Bollywood songs, as we know them, are replete with code mixed text. But, what about songs in other multilingual communities? Let us investigate this curious phenomenon in one of our favourite songs, The Ketchup Song:

Friday night it’s party time
feeling ready looking fine,
viene diego rumbeando,
with the magic in his eyes
checking every girl in sight,
grooving like he does the mambo
he’s the man allí en la disco,
playing sexy feeling hotter,
he’s the king bailando el ritmo ragatanga,
and the DJ that he knows well,
on the spot always around twelve,
plays the mix that diego mezcla con la salsa,
y la baila and he dances y la canta
many think it’s brujeria,
how he comes and disappears,
every move will hypnotize you,
some will call it chuleria,
others say that it’s the real,
rastafari afrogitano

The song is Spanish-English code-mixed and the first two stanzas of the song are as shown above. As you might have already observed, the English and Spanish part of the song are written in green and red font respectively. The frequent alternation of languages as in the line, “y la baila and he dances y la canta” adds a speech-like flavour to the song and makes it sound more natural. Perhaps, if the song were monolingual, it wouldn’t have been as catchy as the current one.

Here are other language pairs that have been mixed in popular songs.

Spanish – English:

Tengo Tu Love, Sie7e – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaShyjYClD8
Feliz Navidad, José Feliciano – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTtc2pM1boE
La Isla Bonita, Madonna – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YzW1nMB9fk
Las Ketchup – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMT698ArSfQ
Cha Cha, Chelo – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4XViIs3CnQ
Living La Vida Loca, Ricky Martin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p47fEXGabaY
Macarena, Los Del Rio – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiBYM6g8Tck
The cup of life, Ricky Martin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP2D-km89pA
Before the Next Teardrop Falls, Freddy Fender – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay5ciplY4Pg

French – English:

Que sera sera, Doris Day – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZbKHDPPrrc
Aicha, Outlandish –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0nFTdKlKLw
Lady marmalade, LaBelle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4LWIP7SAjY
Michelle, Beatles – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnuQMsEV8dA
Eyes Without a Face, Billy Idol – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OFpfTd0EIs
Hold on Tight, EOL – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkekqVPIc2M
Ma Belle Amie, The Tee Set – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bioah3q7JOk

Italian – English:

Underwater love, Smoke City – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuLjsW8XhY4
Volare, Bobby Rydell – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MprNWH625aw

German – English:

Sailor, Lolita – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62muVcjv2a8
Wooden heart – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hlbu6SsjlSE

Portuguese – English:

Corcovado, Stan Getz / Astrud Gilberto – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMX6E68qJAg

Arabic – English:

Desert Rose, Sting – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3lWwBslWqg

Do you remember the song Circle of Life from the movie Lion King? Did you know that the song is actually code-mixed and that the first stanza of the song is not some gibberish intended to confuse you! Now then, here’s a challenge for you: can you guess the language used in the first stanza of the song?

I hope you enjoyed listening to our “mixed” songs, and that, by now have picked one of them as your favorites! Do you know of any other code-mixed songs that you would like to share with us? Why wait then — please post them in the comment section below!

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