THE ACHY BREAKY HEART FLATLINED years ago and the Electric Slide is short-circuiting, so what's a dance-crazed world to do? The Macarena, obviously. In 1993, Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruiz, the Spanish duo known as Los del Rio, recorded their song about a lovesick temptress named Macarena. Since then, the novelty hit has sold almost 4 million copies worldwide and topped the charts from Austria to the Philippines. An English version is now No. 1 in the U.S. Along the way, the Macarena (a dance that resembles a PG-13-rated Hokey Pokey) has become the hottest thing since the Twist. On cruise ships it's more popular than Dramamine, and at the Olympics the gold medal-winning U.S. women's gymnastics team danced a spirited Macarena during a post-competition exhibition before a global TV audience. According to Los del Rio, they improvised the dance onstage one night, the audience followed suit, and it evolved from there in nightclubs. "Macarena is our daughter," says Monge of his platinum progeny. "It is our most excellent endeavor."

And how. Before "Macarena," Monge and Ruiz, two childhood chums turned family men (both 48, with four children each) from Seville, Spain, supported themselves for 34 years with a succession of albums and state-sponsored goodwill tours that Monge told Billboard were meant to cheer up "aging, nostalgic Spaniards" around the world.

Only after Europe was already gyrating to the beat did the song begin to pulse its way into U.S. nightclubs, eventually catching the attention of Miami radio and nightclub deejay Johnny Caride, 30, and musical engineer Mike Triay, 32, two members of the Bayside Boys, a Miami-based band. "Every time I played it at the club [in Coconut Grove], everyone went crazy," says Caride. A year ago, with Boys member Carlos De Yarza, 25, singing the lyrics in English, the song was remixed in two days. Caride recalls that less than two hours after playing it on the air, "there were 200 requests for the song." In July 1995 the Bayside Boys sold their version to RCA. "Obviously we're what made the song hit No. 1," says Triay.

Maybe si, maybe no. After all, it was Los del Rio who first made "Macarena" a worldwide hit, and it is Los del Rio who travel most of the year promoting it. "Sometimes we do it two or three times a performance," says Monge. "But who can get tired of a daughter?"

PETER CASTRO
MARISA SALCINES in Miami

  • Contributors:
  • Marisa Salcines.