Shakira lives in Barcelona, goes out with and has had a son by a Barça footballer, and her last name is the distinctly Catalan one of Ripoll. She must have known somewhere along the line that sooner or later she was going to sing at least one song in Spain's second language, and in the end she chose 'Boig per tu' ('Crazy About You') composed by Pep Sala in 1990, and made famous by the band Sau, of which Sala was one of the two frontmen together with the late Carles Sabater. Shakira's latest album – intriguingly called 'Shakira' - was released last month and features a version of 'Boig per tu' in the Catalan original (she also included a version in Spanish: 'Loca por ti'); however, the edition of the album which includes 'Boig per tu' is for the Latin American and Spanish markets only (Anglo-American buyers don't get to hear it). I could have told Shakira's PR people – had I managed to get within waving distance of any of them - that they were making a big mistake, and that the Catalan version should have been available for the Latin American and Anglo-American markets, but not, under any circumstances, for the Spanish one. Thus, the inevitable might have been avoided: a Spain-generated spate of hate tweets sent to the Colombian star, for having dared to record a song in Catalan. These messages – and I translate from the originals – called her, among other things, 'mentally retarded', 'an imbecile', 'pig', 'subnormal', 'disgusting', 'monkey like', 'stupid' and (in one comment laced with a biting irony lacking in other messages) 'so very international'. The tone of such missives is fairly symptomatic of the revulsion towards all things Catalan which has been fostered for generations by politicians and media among a sizeable sector – no one knows if a minority or a majority - of the Spanish population. The good news is that these insults – having been directed at a world-famous artist who has sold 70 million albums – were reported by two major American newspapers and the BBC, thus revealing internationally what most of us who live here are already well aware of: that such catalanophobia is one of the main, albeit little known, reasons Catalonia will be leaving Spain any lustrum now. By the by, in spite of – or perhaps partly thanks to – the quasi-racist put-downs of her Spanish nationalist detractors, Shakira's (excellent) version of 'Boig per tu' is, at the time of writing, the current worldwide number one single on Spotify.
Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, maig de 2014