Jack Tame: Sound of heaven on a street corner

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Kiwi pride: Good Lorde ... She's everywhere. Photo / Richard Robinson
Kiwi pride: Good Lorde ... She's everywhere. Photo / Richard Robinson

A little Puerto Rican guy called Pedro works on a corner by 103rd and Second selling Dominican Ices from a pushcart.

Well, his sign says they're Dominican ices, but they're actually more icecreamy than blocky, if you know what I mean. You can't suck them empty of flavour like you sometimes can with cheap frozen juice ice blocks.

Anyway, on this little corner of what you'd call East Harlem or Spanish Harlem or El Barrio or maybe the Upper, Upper East Side, Pedro usually blasts a few songs from a speaker below his cart.

More often than not, it's Puerto Rican stuff. Fast and cheery and a little chaotic and not particularly good for rainy days or funerals or relationship catastrophes but good for hawking coconut or mango-flavoured sweet stuff on a sticky hot New York afternoon.

The other day, I was walking by Pedro and thinking how the Dominican icecream season must almost be over when I was taken by the riff from his speaker 'cos it wasn't Puerto Rican at all.

It wasn't even Tupac or Marc Anthony or even Tito Puente. Nope. It was Lorde.

It was a funny little thing actually, because just the night before I'd been in a cab with an Egyptian driver and he'd been listening to the radio as we death-sped into town. And on the radio was Lorde.

"Do you like this song?" I said.

We'd been speaking already 'cos I always ask New York cabbies where they're from, partly 'cos geography's interesting and partly 'cos I like to show off that I know the capitals of obscure countries (though I'm frequently stumped by some driver from Mali or Benin and have surreptitiously Googled "Porto-Novo" on my phone just to make doubly sure).

"Yeah," he said. "It's a good song. Her name's Lordie."

"Yeeaah. Ahh, I think it's just 'Lord'," I said, re-establishing a show-off/know-it-all status already firmly established by a discussion of Alexandria versus Cairo versus Aswan life. "She's from my country."

"You know her?" he said, impressed.

"Naaah, never met her."

"Oh. Where you from?"

"New Zealand.

"New Zeeeeealand."

"Yeah, she's from this place called Takapuna," I said.

"It's a good song, man."

We rolled up to the toll booths on the Triborough Bridge, Manhattan fading in late-afternoon dimness.

"It's everywhere, man."

Pretty cool.

- Herald on Sunday

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