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Medellín, Colombia. | Photo: Matěj Ptaszek
Medellín, Colombia. | Photo: Matěj Ptaszek
Matěj Ptaszek -

Songs Written with a Machete #10: The Fire That Burns Your Skin

I spent eighteen months of my three-year South American adventure in the Colombian wilderness, in a mountain village near the infamous Medellín. As a bluesman, I was impressed by local songs, whose lyrics would wake up even Oblomov from his lethargy. I decided to translate the juiciest pieces and bring them to you in the series Songs Written with a Machete.

One day, I was asked by historian Fercho Cuartas, my Colombian friend and native paisa, to give a lecture at the University of Antioquia on my view of the world of magical realism through my documentary photos and short stories. I adventurously accepted the offer, not knowing that the event would be attended not so much by students, but rather by university professors and Medellín intellectuals.

Before I started showing the slides and telling stories, the hand of one of the university professors rose from the large crowd. The two-meter-tall, ascetic septuagenarian gave me a stern look and asked aloud, "In your book, do you include Pablo Escobar? And what do you, as a foreigner, think of him?" I replied that I was attracted to Colombia because of its magical realism, not because of its tragic story of a greedy psychopath and a cynical murderer. Then the professor smiled and said that now he knew he could listen to my lecture safely without having to leave the hall prematurely.

At that time, Narcos became a globally popular TV series, which treated that extremely painful chapter of Colombian history with a certain detachment that unfortunately more or less downplays or romanticises the events, which at certain moments were terrible. Even the opening song, which comes from the pen of Brazilian artist Rodrigo Amarante, works more with magical realism than with the actual harsh reality that plagued the already severely tested country from the 1970s to the mid-1990s.

Tuyo (Yours)

I am the fire that burns your skin
I am the water that kills your thirst
The castle, the tower I am
The sword that guards the wealth.

You, the air that I breathe
And the moonlight in the sea
The throat that I long to wet
That I fear to drown in love.
And what desires will you give me?
You say: "Just admire my treasure
And yours it will be, and yours it will be."


A distinctive text that might be more suited to Gabriel García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude than to a series about murderers who have taken the lives of many people.

Tagy Songs Written With a Machete Rodrigo Amarante Pablo Escobar Narcos magical realism Medellín Colombia

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Matěj Ptaszek