PETALING JAYA: “‘Despacito’ is just another song that Latinos would dance to.”
This was the response from native Spanish speaker and Mexican expat Roberto Calleja on the catchy dance song which was recently banned by the government from Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) stations over its explicit lyrics.
Calleja said it was normal in South American culture to make music with elements of romance and passion, adding that Latin Americans would dance to the song’s catchy rhythm.
“We are a culture that advocates love. As Latin Americans, the lyrics and music are fine in our culture,” he said.
He added that other Spanish songs have more sexually explicit content than “Despacito”.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said the decision to ban the song was made after a public complaint which was reviewed by RTM’s panel.
However, he said the song could still be accessed online.
The women’s wing of Amanah had also urged authorities to stop the song from playing on the airwaves, saying the lyrics were not suitable.
Calleja, who is a lecturer at a private college, said the ban would not affect listeners, especially those who are technology savvy, as it could still be streamed online.
He added that the government was merely exercising its responsibility to preserve the country’s values and culture.
“Whether it is right or wrong to ban, I do not want to say. Let the public judge for themselves,” Calleja said when asked if he thought the ban was justified.
Meanwhile, Projek Dialog editor Ahmad Fuad Rahmat said it was too late to ban “Despacito” as the song had already become famous.
“I think this is just the usual moral paranoia, after taking quite a bit of effort to find out what the song actually means,” he said, adding that the ban was not practical.
Fuad, who is also a lecturer, said some English pop songs were also sexually explicit and yet were not banned.
“It doesn’t make sense that a Spanish song that people don’t understand has to stop playing on the radio.”
Spanish-speaking student Danial Azhar said he was not influenced by the explicit lyrics and expressed doubt over whether listeners who do not understand Spanish could be affected by the song’s sexually-charged content.
“I doubt others would be influenced by something they don’t understand, unless they look up its translation,” he said.
Danial, who currently stays in Mexico, said there was no point banning “Despacito” only on government-owned stations.
He added that the ban was not likely to affect viewers or listeners as the majority of RTM users are from rural areas and do not pay attention to the song.
“Despacito” is a single by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi featuring rapper Daddy Yankee.
It topped the charts in 45 countries and reached the top 10 of nine others, making it Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s most successful single to date.
The music video has gained over two billion views on YouTube and was reportedly streamed over 4.6 billion times on Spotify.
A part of the lyrics read: “Let me breathe your neck slowly, let me undress you with kisses slowly, sign the walls of your labyrinth, and make your whole body a manuscript.”
In the past, suggestive songs aired over public airwaves were subjected to censors, with swear words being silenced without disrupting the flow of the song.
Afiqah Farieza contributed to this article.