More on the meaning of Spanish Sahara by Foals

After I wrote about what I thought was the interpretation of Spanish Sahara by Foals, a friend, Noopur, came up with a more nuanced, beautiful analysis of the song. I felt that it’s also a reminder that music exists more than just to entertain.


(By Noopur )

The screen is clouded. A man walks from a corner into the haze. This is what looks like an abandoned place with forgotten mountains and a broken ground that can suck you in. This is how we are introduced to the official video of ‘Spanish Sahara’ by Foals. Foals are an English Indie Rock band from Oxford, England. I read a post on this piece of music by a friend and since then have been listening to it on repeat. It takes a lot of time for me to understand a song. One of the reasons is that I never intend to understand it, whichever causes any sensation or evokes any feeling in my body and my mind, I keep listening to it. When that feeling is lost, it takes away the song too and I have to find a new one. This is my first attempt to write about a song because it has evoked a lot of unsettling and some not so unsettling emotions.

I will not try to interpret the original intent of the song because that exercise would be futile. When a particular piece is written at a particular moment, the artist is consumed by the emotions of that moment and when it reaches the end of its creation, he leaves that time zone and with that, those emotions too. I cannot go back to the time when ‘Spanish Sahara’ was written and feel exactly what the Foals were feeling when they were writing it. So it’s not possible to gauge the exact meaning of the song. Instead, I will talk about how it made me feel and how I could relate it to the official video as well.

“So I walked into the haze

And a million dirty waves”

Two lines into the song and this is how it rings in my ears – a prophecy. This is a prophecy of doom. One could be optimistic and think that if that man has walked into the haze and crossed a million dirty waves, he could have come out clean and safe. But what it whispers in my ears is this – the man has walked there and he never returned. In the music video we see that he is constantly trying to drag a bag of what looks like either a sack full of trash or a deflated mattress (I will call it a lump in future references), I can’t be fully sure of that. What I am sure of is that he is carrying some unwanted weight against his will.

The song constantly talks about a place called ‘Spanish Sahara’ which is also the title of the song. When I listened to the song, Spanish Sahara became this forlorn place for me. In the video, the man first tries to leave that lump but then finally decides to carry it around in ‘Spanish Sahara,’ which is when he says –

“Now the waves they drag you down

Carry you to broken ground”

But what is this lump? I found a sort of an answer in these lines –

“Leave the horror here

Forget the horror here

Leave it all down here

It’s future rust and it’s future dust”

So, the lump for me becomes the horror that man was trying to leave ashore. “It’s future rust and it’s future dust,” precisely what my baggage of memory and thought is.

Spanish Sahara symbolises different things for me at different times whenever I listen to this song.

Mind – The man is probably travelling in his own mind and trying to leave that place. Dragging the lump everywhere, he is trying to find liberation from a self-imposed imprisonment. I could feel myself trying to leave my ‘Spanish Sahara’ and separating it from my body. It is when I fail to do so, these lines resonate, “I am the fury in your head, I am the fury in your bed and I am the ghost in the back of your head.” This ghost and fury is none other than my mind. I am trying to leave the ‘horror’ in there but walking on a ‘broken’ ground and always slipping.

A certain time and place that stands as memory – The man wants to leave that memory before it consumes him. The rigour of that consumption, the intensity is indicated by the rising tempo and then fire enters the screen. There is no sign of the lump or the man towards the end of the video. To me, it felt like a dangerous obsession with a piece of memory that is involuntarily carried around. It carries everything with it that becomes a trauma which is hard to shed and let go of.

Four minutes into the song and the beat rises with heated intensity. Exactly at this part, I feel like a thousand faceless bodies surround me with voices thundering and piercing my ears. I can either carry them with me wherever I go or I exit myself. I think the man in the video exited himself and was violently swallowed by his own mind. It is this ‘choir of fury’ that heightens in my mind which started very quietly but with an unspoken promise of destruction.

It reminds me of a certain piece that I sketched a few months back. I don’t know what I was thinking when I made this but now when I look at it, I can feel the vortex.


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