Writers and Cantantes: How Music Inspires While Writing

By Zoraida Córdova

My least favorite feeling is the moment I dig in my purse and realize I left my headphones at home. ARGH! Not only is it a terrible thing because I hate the sound of the busker butchering Wonderwall on acoustic, but it’s because I love music. No Bella Swans up in here.

This is not to say that my taste in music is great. I will never understand Lana Del Rey and sometimes I like country songs (I hope you can still accept me as a friend.) But music, like all things we invest our love into, is a matter of personal taste.

One of my favorite stories my grandmother tells me about my childhood is that when I was a baby, the only way to get me to shut up was to put a radio beside my hammock (crib? What you think I am, a Queen?). So for as long as I can remember, I’ve been listening to the smooth stylings of Lisandro Mesa, Oscar D’Leon, Ruben Blades, and because I’m Ecuadorian, Julio Jaramillo.

Zoraida pic1How many of you need playlists when you’re writing? I certainly do. Music has always gotten my creativity flowing, and I especially love Latin music because it always tells a STORY. (Sometimes it makes me sad that younger generations don’t get the Salsa greats and instead get “I LUH YA PAPI” by JLo, but that’s a different story.)

When I was 5 , I didn’t understand that “No Le Pegue La Negra” by Joe Arroyo told the story of how African slaves were brought to Colombia in the 1600s and started intermarrying with the Natives. The Spaniards would beat the African women and then people would rebel. While that’s kind of a morbid thing to be listening to when you’re little, these were the songs I grew up with.

Most Latin pop ballads by Christian Castro and Chayanne are about how they can’t be with the girl, but they’re in so much love, oh my god. Shakira’s original Rock Latino songs were a mix of Colombian vallenato instruments and electric guitars and all of her words used to be pure poetry. The other day I felt really moody on my train ride to work, so I put on Selena’s greatest hits and a bidi bidi bom bom later, I was in a perfectly good mood. See, my grandmother had a good idea all those years ago.

These are the sounds, I realize, I have had in all my writing playlists. My Maná is mixed in with my Red Hot Chili Peppers and my Celia Cruz is mixed in with my Goo Goo Dolls. Whether I’m writing about mermaids in Coney Island or I’m working on a contemporary romance set in Boston.

I leave you with a random sampling of the last songs I listened to on iTunes.

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What do you listen to when you write? What was your favorite song growing up? Share with us in the comments!