Last week The National Sound Library of Mexico released the first ever recording of Frida Kahlo’s voice—or what is most likely her voice. I say “likely” because there’s still a tiny degree of uncertainty as to whether it’s really her. Further research is being undertaken to make absolutely sure.
These days, the face of the radical 20th-century painter and communist decorates plastic totes, T-shirts and Barbie dolls. Her image has become as iconic, but also as branded, as that of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevarra—now a symbol sometimes so far removed from its history it’s entirely denatured. So when that sound clip floated into the ears of thousands, it seemed some hoped for a kind of return to, and re-recognition of, the person herself. The painter’s essence came flooding back, this time in a new form, as a piece of the actual Kahlo appeared. It’s harder to commercialize a sound, no?
People love to say, “It’s amazing what technology can do these days.” I.e. pipe the high-pitched cheery lilt that is Kahlo over the airwaves and onto the screens of millions. But let’s not forget the digging it took to find it in the first place—an activity still analog and dusty. According to the New York Times, it took the physical rummaging of many hands to even unearth the clip in the first place.
The recording itself comes from an episode of The Bachelor, a 1950s Mexican radio show recorded by Televisa Radio. In 2007, the National Sound Library was given thousands of tapes from the company’s archive to be digitized and put in safe keeping.
Last week I also read that Driscoll—the company worth billions of dollars for whom thousands of migrant workers’ hands dig to harvest the fruit that you and I buy from the grocery store—put out a press release about its newest invention: “Rosé Berries,” pale, baby pink strawberries and raspberries manufactured to taste like the super cute, super trendy bubbly alcoholic beverage.
This comes on the heels of cotton candy flavored grapes, another Driscoll invention, as well as grapples, made by fusing apples and grapes or sumo oranges. (We can talk about the oranges being named such because they were made in Japan and because they’re large and because they have a nodule that resembles a top knot another time.) Though really most produce to be found in today’s grocery stores are genetically modified. See: seedless grapes, tomatoes, corn.
“Each variety of berries has taken years to perfect by a team of agronomists, breeders, sensory analysts, plant health scientists and entomologists—but Driscoll’s believes they have finally hit the rosé sweet spot,” Hannah Chubb, a writer for People magazine, says of the new berry sensation, making it clear it was not uncomplicated.
As archivists work to eke out the idiosyncrasies that might distinguish Kahlo’s voice, the year the recording was made—where, when, why—we wonder, will it make her voice, so long inaccessible, available to all those that choose to listen? Will the defamiliarization of her image be reeled back with the sound of her singsong voice as it talks about her husband? “The toad,” she calls him.
While hands harvest the modified, defamiliarized strawberries, other hands can type the following into Amazon if they so choose: “Bensonal Shower Curtain Bathroom Waterproof Frida Kahlo with 12 Hooks Mildew Resistant.” Those hands can also click “Buy now,” making Bensonal Shower Curtain Bathroom Waterproof Frida Kahlo with 12 Hooks Mildew Resistant theirs for just $17.99 plus shipping. The world is at almost everyone’s fingertips.