Top 10 Songs of… Carmen Osbahr

Keiran Moore
– As I’ve said before when discussing my top 10 charts, Sesame Street isn’t shown here in my native U.K. and hasn’t been for about 14 years. It also wasn’t shown when I was in my preschool years and could have properly appreciated it. What this sporadic scheduling has meant is that there are undoubtedly gaps in my Sesame Street knowledge. The plus side to this is that I get to make little discoveries every now and again of characters or Muppeteers that I have some knowledge of, but don’t know especially well. And in particular it seems to be the female characters that are currently standing out for me. Through my previous charts I now have a real love for Zoe and Abby Cadabby and this week’s rundown shines a light on the last of what I’m calling the “Modern Sesame Female Triumvirate”, namely Rosita and her performer Carmen Osbahr.

Carmen had no particular plans to be a puppeteer, as often seems to be the case (see also: Frank Oz and Kathryn Mullen), but that certainly doesn’t mean that she isn’t a natural. In fact, she’s so good at what she does that even way back in the 80s she was hired to train Muppeteers working on Plaza Sésamo in her native Mexico. She’s now been performing with The Henson Company for nearly 30 years and has most definitely earned her stripes working on everything from feature films to commercials. She also brings a Latin flair to everything she does which leads me to the perfect way to start a top 10 countdown….

Conga Counting Song

10 – Conga Counting Song – Rosita

This is actually just the chorus of the Conga Counting Song, but this “Spanish Word of The Day” sequence is, as I said above, the perfect way to kick off this list! It’s also choc-full of Rosita’s trademark Latina charms. Sesame Street has made teaching global studies and languages a key part of its curriculum, not just on Sesame Street, but with shows like “Panwapa” too. Rosita and other characters such as Ovejita (Murray’s ovine friend) really reinforce that message. I learnt a little Spanish in school, but here in the U.K. French and German are the languages most commonly taught and it makes me wonder if a U.K. production ever did get off the ground whether we might get a Muppet from France or Germany as a Rosita substitute? Either way, this is a snazzy performance with some great guitar playing from Rosita that I like a lot!

9 – Baile – Rosita

“Baile is the Spanish word for dance!” And this festive number will certainly get your pies (that’s the Spanish for feet – not the blueberry dessert kind) moving to the beat. Rosita lists a whole host of Latin dance styles that you can get up and take part in and it’s definitely hard to resist! Whether you’re tempted to Tango or moved to Mambo this is the song for you. It’s an enthusiastic and gusto-filled performance from Carmen who has some complicated lyrics to deal with here, but delivers each line perfectly. Carmen is a native Mexican and I know through personal experience having sung with a soprano from Colombia that there is a completely different sensibility to music in Central and Southern America to that of Northern America and Western Europe. I doubt any performer other than Carmen could have sung this as perfectly.

8 – Quiero Jugar (I Want to Play) – Rosita & Telly

I love the pairing of Telly and Rosita and considered the song “Mango Tango” for my Martin P. Robinson chart. I also considered it for this chart and it came a very respectable 11th. This fun Mariachi-inspired song has me imagining a backing band dressed in suitable “Three Amigos” style outfits and invokes hot balmy nights with lanterns on string and fireworks. It’s a real fiesta number. Fun musical style aside, there’s actually quite an important message here about reaching out to people and overcoming barriers to do so. It’s true that kids seem to be able to see through differences such as language, race or disability much easier than their grown up counterparts. Perhaps this should be shown at primetime for us adults to learn from? I’m very jealous of how Rosita (and Carmen) can roll their R’s in this song as it’s something I’ve never been able to do!

7 – Tu Me Gustas – Rosita & Elmo

For some reason the official Sesame Street video on YouTube cuts off Rosita’s verse in this song and goes straight into Elmo’s solo! I’m not sure why this should be, but I do think it’s a real shame as Rosita sings this song with a real tenderness that isn’t always present in her brasher, up-tempo numbers. This is the second Rosita cover version on this chart (and there will be more) and I really like the way Sesame Street repurposes songs to bring them to the next generation. Tu Me Gustas had previously been sung in seasons 6 and 35 of the show as well as on audio collections, but this is definitely one of my favorites. The arrangement is pared down somewhat and I think it works very well. Carmen offers a clean, clear vocal that suits the song perfectly.

Siesta Fiesta

6 – Fiesta – Rosita & Sesame Street Cast

This song appeared in a Sesame Street episode that featured Mike Myers as “Wayne Campbell” so it instantly gets an extra 100 cool points from me! I also love a song that switches style and tempo midway through so that’s another 100 cool points as well! The opening is sweet and sounds like it’s leading to one of the very pretty lullabies that Sesame Street does so well and then it pulls the old switcheroo and turns into the ultimate party anthem! Rosita is suddenly joined by a gang of friends who are all on hand to have fun and chant numbers (if “B” words are small talk on Sesame Street then it would make sense that chanting numbers makes a great party)! And then, piñata untouched (they’re notoriously hard to break anyway) they all slip away and Rosita returns to bed for her siesta.

5 – I’m the Queen of Nacho Picchu – Queen of Nacho Picchu & Lackeys

Apologies for the poor quality video – decent videos from any of the Elmo: The Musical segments are harder to find than Machu Picchu itself! While Rosita is most definitely Carmen’s signature character she is by no means the full extent of her work. I like the slightly menacing element that Carmen brings to her portrayal of the Queen of Nacho Picchu – I think she’d make a great Indiana Jones villain (if Indy were ever to move into catering). Listening to Carmen is like a musical tour of Central and Southern America and this is yet another style to add to the itinerary. Again, she shows off her vocal dexterity and her superb puppetry makes the Queen a lot more entertaining than she could be in the hands of another.

4 – The Spanish G Word Song – Rosita

This song reminds me of one of my favorite ever which is part of the reason it made it so high in the chart. That song being “Chan Chan” by Buena Vista Social Club, if you’re not familiar with it head over to YouTube and treat yourself! Rosita brings a little Cuban heat and rhythm to Sesame Street with this entertaining and educational song making it the perfect example of what’s best about the show. Again, I have to say “well done” to Rosita and her superb guitar playing and while that may seem a little silly I do really want to shine a light on Carmen and her assisting performer for the great work they do here – it’s the ultimate in walking and chewing gum. I’m finding it impossible to sit still while this song is playing and I don’t suppose there’s much higher praise really!

3 – Sing – Rosita & Gloria Estefan

As Ellen DeGeneres jokes, Gloria Estefan really is the copper plumbing of the music industry – beautiful, durable and reliable and also the perfect choice to duet with Rosita on this ultimate of Sesame Street songs. I really like the bilingual twist that is given to this Joe Raposo track and it makes it all the more special to know that this song can transcend language. I wonder if there’s a real multilingual version anywhere, something akin to “It’s a Small World”? You can clearly see that both performers are having a lot of fun with this. The harmonies sound great and the simple staging allows them to really shine. Gloria really does have a very pretty voice and Carmen is right there with her. It’s beautifully simple and simply beautiful!

Mi Amiguita Rosita

2 – Mi Amiguita Rosita – Rosita & Sesame Street Cast

I guess this song kind of sums up all of the reasons we love Rosita. In this song she shows just how much she values her heritage and as well as promoting tolerance I guess one of the big reasons Sesame Street would add a character like her is to show that it’s ok to be you and be proud of that fact, whether you’re miles from home or right on your own doorstep. That doesn’t just extend to nationality, but encompasses everything that makes us who we are and that’s such an important message. The best lesson you can learn in life is self-acceptance. Musically this song has great touches such as a killer Mexican guitar line and brass instrument accompaniment. Rosita (and Carmen) really put a lot of heart into this and their love of their home country really shines through. I’m not sure what it is about this song that draws me in (probably all of the above), but it does and there’s just something very special about it. ¡Me encanta!

Rosita Luis

1 – Duermete Mi Nino – Rosita & Luis
(Editors Note: Unfortunately the video provided was no longer available, and a replacement could not be found.  We will update this as soon as we find a working link)

There seems to be some confusion online surrounding the heritage of this traditional song, but it bears a very close resemblance to the tune of the national anthem of Venezuela – so that’s a fun fact! I mentioned Sesame Street lullabies above and I really think this is one of the best. I’m absolutely enchanted with this. Brahms Lullaby has been a favorite since I was very small and having Luis sing it as a counterpoint to the melody here is a master stroke. I’d like to find whoever arranged this and shake their hand. I think I might just “steal it” for my acapella group! Carmen has a beautiful upper register that provides a pretty contrast to Rosita’s usual gruffness and it works so well here. This is a thing of beauty.

Carmen has given me one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make on these charts and even as I type I’m still not certain that songs one and two won’t change position before I submit this list. It really could be a draw between them, but I must stay strong and pick one! And being in a position such as this is proof to me of how amazing Carmen is as a performer. I’m constantly impressed by the way Rosita moves and expresses herself as in “Mi Amiguita Rosita”, but then “Duermete Mi Nino” in the version selected is audio only and Carmen’s vocals really shine so both songs show off her incredible talents in their own way! So as is traditional now it’s time for a thank you. I want to thank Carmen for bringing Rosita to life and for giving children from all ethnicities a way to learn about each other and themselves and for doing it in such an entertaining way. I’ve really enjoyed my journey through Latin America so, once again Carmen, Thank You.


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