The Playlist | No Gringo by Vienna Teng

Clean. It’s the only way I can describe it.

Every song by Vienna Teng that I have listened to (i.e. the entirely of her album Inland Territory) has something in common: the pure, minimalistic sound that I can only describe insufficiently as “clean”. And sometimes hauntingly beautiful.

I can’t get over how talented this woman is. She’s a singer. She’s a pianist. She beatboxes and vocalizes. She arranges and writes music.

There was so much indecision over which song I should post this weekend, but in the end, I chose “No Gringo”, because it is pretty much the epitome of everything I like in Teng’s music.

And what would that comprise, you ask?

As mentioned before, the clear, haunting, minimalistic sound, that permeates her music. It is simple and really lets the notes and words seep in. Even her more upbeat songs like “Grandmother’s Song” and “Augustine”, you can really tell she’s putting the music first.

Her voice. My god I wish I could sing like that. It’s just so clear and emotional and….I just can’t describe it. I’m just going to end up using the words “haunting” and “beautiful” again.

The lyrics always have meaning. Teng’s lyrics always remind me of Sarah Kay’s poetry, and the subject matter falls in the exact same wide range that Kay’s poetry does. Sometimes it’s a simple love song. Sometimes it’s a serious story. “No Gringo” falls into the latter category.

no Gringo aquí
words as levies against the flood
hoy cerrado
there’s too many to feed
room for only our own kind, our own blood
no gringo, no gringo aquí
you have stayed in this land for too long
tan amargo
but there’s no time to grieve
you just pack up your things and move on

“Gringo” is a Spanish term, which is a (derogative) referral to English-speakers, usually Americans. Teng’s song tells the story of an alternative future, where the Mexicans have taken over the US, not unlike when the US invaded Mexico. It’s an interesting twist on a familiar story, where the (historical) usurpers become the usurpees.

I leave you with the studio version of “No Gringo”. The additional instruments definitely add another layer to the song, especially in the last verse.

Did you like “No Gringo?” Have music you think should be on The Playlist? Leave a comment below!


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