14 November 2009
There are lyrics that are written in two or more languages, as well as the more familiar lyrics adapted to the melody of a song originally written in another language (such as the delightful "New York, New York" in Hungarian of Ildy Lee). As far as music is concerned, however, that scratches only the surface of the art form. More important is the blending of different types of music from different cultures. This is most obvious in Rai, which blends Algerian, Spanish, French, African, and Arabic musical forms. The mass audience that loves Sting's Desert Rose (which uses Rai) has been primed to accept multilingual poetry (which, of course, blends words rather than rhythms). On a really deep critical level, a critic should understand how a particular poem blends not just words but poetic traditions from different cultures. We are not there yet, since we are still trying to mainstream the use of words from other languages in a poem.