2nd March 2018: Talking Heads – I Zimbra

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Artist: Talking Heads
Title: I Zimbra
Language: ?

I have been listening to Talking Heads a lot recently on my journeys to work, especially their album ‘Fear of Music’. ‘I Zimbra’ is the first track on that record, and it was puzzling me what language it was in. Turns out it is based on a sound poem by Hugo Ball, who was a Dadaist poet (he created the 1916 Dada Manifesto!) and he used a kind of made-up language for that work. Well, it was more about how the ‘words’ sounded together. Not using a standard recognisable language makes you listen to the way the sounds fit together rather than trying to work out meanings of words.

I find this very interesting, as I don’t really listen to lyrics in songs. Not straight off, anyway. I automatically listen to words as sounds, and how they relate to the music. I could write a long list of very famous songs where I still have no idea what the lyrics are. Maybe that’s also why I find it difficult to remember people’s names…

How can I justify including Talking Heads on my foreign-language music blog? For a start, simply, the lyrics of this song are not in English. Also, I am recognising the *huge* influence African music had on the band during this period. In the first YouTube video below I have included the track as it appears on the album, but the second video is a live version of ‘I Zimbra’ (an extra from the ‘Stop Making Sense’ live DVD), which kicks in at about 4:53 mins (after ‘Big Business’). I added this for purely selfish reason, as I like watching David Byrne dancing 🙂

“I don’t want words that other people have invented. All the words are other people’s inventions. I want my own stuff, my own rhythm, and vowels and consonants too, matching the rhythm and all my own. If this pulsation is seven yards long, I want words for it that are seven yards long. Mr Schulz’s words are only two and a half centimetres long.” – from the English translation of the 1916 ‘Manifeste DaDa‘ by Hugo Ball. You can read another Dada Manifesto here, written in 1918 by Tristan Tzara. These two manifestos are probably the best known writings from a fascinating and hugely important art movement, and you can read more about the comparison between the two manifestos here, in an excellent article by Eli Anapur (aka Biljana Puric) for WideWalls online art magazine.

Yeah.  Get yourself a coffee, there’s a lot to get through today…

DJ Esperanto


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