Los bibilicos

There was a massage parlor I used to frequent. I briefly frequented. It was, in many ways, simply too good to be true.

It was, as I recall, called “the Soho Touch,” and was in a giant, bright, airy loft space in lower Manhattan. The center of the space was a bar at which non-alcoholic drinks were served. Possibly at no charge. And the women who worked at the place would sit around the bar, chatting – with one another, with patrons – when they weren’t “in session.”

This all was before I had a modicum of confidence. I didn’t sit at the bar. I made appointments with individual providers by phone, so as to avoid the whole selection scene. But today, such a configuration sounds super hot, and it seemed super hot to me then, too. I just never could quite make it work for me.

Women working there dressed… well, they dressed like attractive women working in an informal bar with no uniform or dress code. One, in particular, wore green camouflage pants, tight but not form-fitting. They were hot. She was hot. And this all was so much hotter to me than the otherwise-ubiquitous massage parlor uniform of Victoria’s Secret lingerie.

I like to see the women who undress for me dressed first. Apparently, this is so unusual as to be perceived as a fetish by some.

Anyway, the thing about this place that was MOST affecting to me was its soundtrack.

The soundtrack was the same every time I went. (How many times did I go? Five? Ten? Fifty? I have no idea.) There was one song in particular I associated with the place.

This wasn’t unusual. This was before Pandora, back in the days of CDs, and many massage parlors had exactly one (or possibly two) CDs per room, providing places with a very specific, very consistent musical experience.

The Soho Touch was unusual in that it had a sound system piping music into the various massage rooms, the same soundtrack in all the rooms (as opposed to a single low-cost CD player in each room), coming out of a ceiling-mounted speaker – high-quality sound, a sort of classy experience. (As classy as possible in a rub-and-tug massage parlor.)

And the soundtrack itself…. There was one song in particular that I really liked. It was sung in a language I couldn’t identify. Clearly, a romance language, sort of Spanish-y, Portuguese-y. But I couldn’t pin it down. There were words I recognized – los, cantan, amor. But others I couldn’t discern: neshama, which sounded like the Hebrew word for breath, or spirit, or soul. Somehow, they didn’t come together into a coherent, comprehensible whole for me.

I did a fair amount of googling to identify the song. I couldn’t find it.

I inquired about the disc. I thought I was told it was a “world music” disc by Putumayo, the briefly trendy fashion retailer. But I never could find the disc.

The Soho Touch closed. I forgot about the song. For years. And then heard it, somewhere. More googling, and this time, I identified the song – “Los Bibilicos” – a Ladino love song. My linguistic sense had been right, but I was frustrated. The lyrics were correct, but no version I could find was the version I remembered.

More googling. No luck.

Another year or two passed, and I tried again. Finally, I found it: Consuelo Luz was the singer. (Confusingly, though she had a song on a Putumayo collection called “Putumayo Presents: A Jewish Celebration, it wasn’t this song.)

Anyway – here it is. Enjoy:

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