Monday, April 7, 2008

Español in country music was WSIX's April Fools joke

Angry listeners don't see through prank and bemoan supposed change

A Nashville radio personality tested the limits of the April Fools' art form with a fake format change supposedly designed to attract Spanish-speaking listeners. CMT's Country Music Blog describes the April Fools' joke crafted by WSIX's Gerry House this year, which was that the country music station would try to broaden its listener base by playing some Spanish-language songs in the rotation.

After issuing the phony announcement and playing some songs en español, here is what happened:
House opened his phone lines and listeners started calling in. Did they ever. And most of them were angry. Angry that another culture was being "forced" on them. Vowed to leave the station and never return. Forget the fact that Spanish-language singers and writers are a big part of country music history. I guess House waited too long to remind his listeners that it was April Fool's Day. Oh - and then he played the new single by Gone Country winner Julio Iglesias Jr. and invited listeners to vote on that song.
This particular joke comes during an increasing push to fight negativity against Hispanics, African-Americans, immigrants, and/or Spanish-speakers (see this round-up or today's Tennessean story). According to this article about April Fools Day in the Altoona (PA) Mirror, an artful prank does two things: it builds comraderie, and it doesn't hurt anyone. Reader comments on the CMT Country Music blog post criticize both House and his listeners for the negativity generated by the stunt.

As the CMT blog points out, however, the fake news at the heart of the prank was not entirely unimaginable, since Spanish-language songs are a part of country music's past and present. See previous Hispanic Nashville Notebook stories on Freddy Fender and Julio Iglesia's Gone Country win.

1 comment:

  1. I was listening that morning and was completely appalled at the hateful comments listeners were making.

    I agree with the commenter, CME, over at the CMT blog who said,

    "I thought it was a brilliant show. It brought out the blatant ignorance in our community and one of the best ways to make changes is to bring the problem to light."


    "Again, I think bringing the subject out on the radio so that others can hear the ignorance and racism only helps shed light on the problem. The less we hide it the more hope it has to change."

    I wish some of those people who called could hear themselves played back and realize how ignorant they really are.


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