Author Archives: aeatkins@usc.edu

Erre con Erre

What is being performed?
TV: There’s this little riddle Venezuelan’s teach their children to learn how to roll their “r’s”
AA: How does it go?
TV: Erre con erre cigarro. Erre con erre barril. Rápido corren los carros, cargados de azúcar del
ferrocarril.
AA: What does it mean?
TV: Nothing real, it’s just a way to practice rolling your “r’s” by saying as many “r” words as
possible.
AA: What could it translate to?
TV: I guess roughly it translates to R with R, uh, cigar, R with R, barrell, the cars go fast and
they’re carrying sugar from the railroad. It’s a lot of gibberish.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Has this helped you?
TV: It actually has. It sticks with you and it’s fun so you get good practice rolling your “r’s.”
AA: What does it mean to you?
TV: I see it as a way I can help my future children embrace their Venezuelan culture and learn
how to speak with an accent when speaking Spanish. The Venezuelan accent is very different
from other Latin American accents, too, so it’s a way to embrace that.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
AA: Where do you perform this?
TV: It’s mostly performed amongst young children in school as sort of a little competition or
between a parent and a child as practice.

Reflection
I think this is a very catchy and fun way of practicing rolling “r’s”– something that’s fundamental
to proper pronunciation in Spanish. I think it’s a special trick that gets to be shared with families
and passed down. I also think it’s a celebration of Spanish and a language that is very beautiful
because of it’s pronunciation.

Venezuelan New Year’s

What is being performed?
TV: There are actually a lot of folk traditions that go along with New Year’s for Venezuelans
AA: Okay, like what?
TV: Well, for one, you’re supposed to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s for good luck.
AA: Does it bring you good luck for the day, forever, or is it just for the year?
TV: It’s for the year, but I don’t know why. I guess it could be cause yellow is a happy color.
There’s also the tradition of running around the block with a suitcase after dinner. It means that
you will travel during the year and everyone I know does it except for me.
AA: Do you believe in that?
TA: I think running around with a suitcase makes you want to travel and maybe that makes you
more likely to book a flight and actually go. But I don’t know how magical it truly is.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: What do you get from this tradition?
TV: I don’t usually partake in it but my family takes it pretty seriously. I guess I see it more as a
symbolic way of hoping for a good year than a magic trick.
AA: Who did you learn it from?
TV: I learned it from my parents and other relatives that wanted to share what color their
underwear was, haha. The suitcase one I just saw happen when I was a kid and still see
happen every New Year’s.

Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
AA: When is this performed?
TV: It’s only performed on New Year’s Eve in Venezuelan culture.
AA: And are you going to perform this with your children?
TV: I think I will.

Reflection
I think these are very interesting traditions and have never heard of them. I think of yellow as a
bright color and could see why it could be connected to luck and good fortune. I think what’s
most interesting is that it is associated with New Year’s. As my informant noted, it seems that
there are a lot of folk traditions that revolve around New Year’s and New Year’s Eve. I definitely
want to try running with my suitcase. It seems a little funny but it means well.

An Eye for an Eye Makes Everyone Blind

What is being performed?
DA: There’s this saying that goes, “an eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”
AA: What does it mean?
DA: It means, uh, basically that striking back won’t solve anything.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Why do you know this proverb?
DA: I remember growing up hearing it in the context of the civil rights era.
AA: Why do you like it?
DA: I think it’s important to advocate for nonviolence with logic and I think that’s what this saying
is about.
AA: What do you mean with logic?
DA: I just mean that this quote simple enough to understand logically and that’s why it’s
effective.

Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
Delward Atkins has shared this proverb with his children as they were growing up and had to
learn how to deal with people on the playground. He sees it as an important life lesson that
especially needs to be taught to the younger generations.

Annotations
Quote Investigator, quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/27/eye-for-eye-blind/.
This annotation shows the many people who have coined this phrase. Notably, Mahatma
Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Louis Fischer, and Henry Powell Spring have said variations of
this proverb. This publication also shows the different ways this proverb has been used. For
example, instead of just “an eye for an eye makes everyone blind” there’s also “an eye for an
eye makes the world blind.” The publication gives a chronological timeline of how the proverb
has changed over time and famous people that have helped change it.
Dear, John. “An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind.” The Huffington Post,
TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Nov. 2016,
www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dear/an-eye-for-an-eye-makes-t_b_8647348.html.
This article shows how the proverb is used in a more recent context. It uses the phrase to
discuss the Paris terrorist attacks and shows how the phrase is still relevant- from protest signs
to songs and other forms of art that are being created to push for a world of nonviolence. It is a
proverb that might’ve been most famous in the 60s but is still present in the 2000s and can be
used as a strong argument for the cyclical nature of violence.

Reflection
I see this proverb as extremely important and relevant today. With the Syrian crisis going on and
the proxy war that now surrounds it, I think it’s important that we remember grass root political
movements and why nonviolence can be so effective for them. I think this proverb is about
creating change that is positive and doesn’t have to harm others in the making. I think that’s
what we need today.

Guitar Players Without Girlfriends

What is being performed?
DA: I have another musician joke.
AA: What is it?
DA: What do you call a guitar player without a girlfriend?
AA: What?
DA: Homeless.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Why do you know this joke?
DA: I probably heard it on rode from a musician friend.
AA: Why do you like it?
DA: I think it’s kind of funny, but also somewhat real. It’s hard to make money doing music and I
think this joke is able to laugh at that pain.

Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
AA: Where do you perform this joke?
DA: I usually perform this joke to young musicians to instill a sense of reality in them but also to
my older musician friends to share struggle and laughter with them. I only really share it with the
musician community, although, I think anyone could get the joke.

Reflection:
I really like this joke because I feel like even if you’re not a musician, you can get it. I think it’s
straight forward and highlights the struggle of being a guitar player while adding another
element of dependency. I think it’s interesting to view the girlfriend in the joke as the person who
is economically supporting the relationship.

Rattle Snakes and Trombone Players

What is being performed?
DA: There are a lot of musician jokes. Since that has been my career for the past 35 years, I
have heard a lot. Trombone players are usually at the butt of them too.
AA: Why trombone players?
DA: No one ever needs a trombone player so they’re seen as irrelevant.
AA: Oh, wow, well give me a trombone player joke.
DA: Okay. What’s the difference between a rattle snake in the desert and a trombone player?
AA: I don’t know.
DA: The rattle snake was on his way to a gig.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Why do you like this piece?
DA: I’ve been hearing it for a long time now and it’s kind of just this insider between musicians
everywhere. It’s a way for us to laugh at how hard and stressful it is to actually get a gig and
say, “well at least we’re not trombone players.”
AA: Where did you learn this from?
DA: I can’t remember but it’s pretty old. I definitely heard it on tour a long time ago.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
Delward Atkins tells this joke to his musician friends and most notably remembers telling it while
on tour. He doesn’t share this joke with many people outside the community or with many
trombone players. The trombone players he has told, however, have seemed to laugh.

Reflection
I really like this joke but I also understand that I would not be able to understand it if it was not
explained to me first that trombone players have an especially hard time finding work. I see this
as a unifying thing for the musician community, but for me it’s just a good laugh.