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Eat & Drink

Toronto's Forbidden Ice Cream Truck

Posted by Debbie Pacheco / August 25, 2009

ice cream truck backMy quest to find the Lambada ice cream truck started last week.

Waiting in line at a west end convenience store to pay for the cold banana popsicle in my hand was the first time I heard the Lambada song filtered through that music box sound.

"Was that an ice cream truck?" the guy next to me with the loaf of bread asks. I guess he saw my puzzled face and felt the same. Pop Goes the Weasel is the usual soft-serve ice cream vendors' tune of choice, but a truck playing the song of the forbidden dance?

The Brazilian dance became an international craze in the late 1980s thanks to the number one hit "Lambada" by French pop group Kaoma. The quick hip-swaying, leg-straddling dance, along with the short skirts in style at the time, contributed to its modern-day "forbidden" image.

For the next few days, I try to track Toronto's Lambada truck. I want to know where it came from and what ice cream rebel would play this song. I call the city's licensing department, talk to ice cream inspectors and vendors, and hang around the neighbourhood where I originally heard the song, circling parks like some pedophile. I get a chuckle when I tell people what I'm looking for.

I became immersed in the soft-serve ice cream world of route rivalries, neighbourhood complaints, secret phone calls (really, read on) and the politics of ice cream vendor music.

Most are traditionalists. That's how one Olympic Softee vendor describes himself. "I like the nostalgia that comes with the old songs. I prefer to keep things the same," he says. But now peddlers of cold sweetness can buy music boxes with dozens of song choices and can also download more from the Internet. Most stick to the children's tunes associated with their trade for recognition.

A few days later, I get a call from Mr. X. Really, that's what he calls himself. He says he prefers to remain anonymous.

"Are you the one looking for the ice cream truck that plays the Lambada?"


"Well, he's at Dufferin Grove after 5pm. I know because that's usually my route," he says.

There it was chiming the song of the forbidden dance, surrounded by sun-kissed and sweaty kids who played in the park all cream truck kids

I stand next to the truck with my notepad and pen in hand, waiting for my turn. "Are you inspecting this truck?" a woman in line with two children asks. I guess she's thinking about the recent media attention identifying high bacteria levels in soft-serve ice cream.

She knows the song. "My kid doesn't recognize it as the ice cream truck, so it's better," she says with a wink. Hopefully her six year-old doesn't recognize the forbidden dance's song either.

I finally speak to the ice cream vendor, Sadek. He's an independent who's been scooping the soft stuff for three years. He just bought a new music box on e-bay from the States because his older one broke. That makes sense. One vendor told me it could be a truck from L.A.

I ask Sadek the question I've been waiting to ask all week: why the Lambada song?

"Oh, it's the first song in the box."

Top photo by Now and Here



Gloria / August 25, 2009 at 01:25 pm
I've heard another song too ... it's very perky and reminds me of tunes they play at Japanese pedestrian crossings. Anyone know what I'm talking about?
X / August 25, 2009 at 02:00 pm
there's a truck that prowls around Riverdale and 'the pocket' near Chinatown East that plays a loop that starts and stops with freaky fake kid voices. Definitely the creepiest ice cream truck, ever. Like homicidal clown creepy.
Dawn replying to a comment from X / August 25, 2009 at 02:02 pm
This truck comes down our street! At least it sounds like the one... creepy indeed.
Emily / August 25, 2009 at 02:21 pm
Haha Mr. X!
That's great.
Darb / August 25, 2009 at 02:28 pm
I can hear the tune from my backyard in the junction right now as I'm reading this article. I've heard the tune a few times over the last few days and have wondered about the tune before. Thanks!
Vic De Zen / August 25, 2009 at 02:30 pm
What a conclusion! Secret phone calls and route rivalries...all this over an ice cream truck!
Mike / August 25, 2009 at 02:32 pm
hellloooo! creepy is not even a word that comes close to describing that voice
Tanja / August 25, 2009 at 02:36 pm
Here at Lansdowne & Dupont, neighbours and I have been tracking the Cucaracha playing ice cream man for a while. He has been trying to steal the regular 30-year veteran's route it would seem, all while playing the cockroach song. Hilarious and gross.
MizzMonsta replying to a comment from Gloria / August 25, 2009 at 02:44 pm
The Japanese song is called "Toryanse" (^_^)
Courtney / August 25, 2009 at 03:03 pm
Oh my God. thank you so much for writing this. I've heard this guy in my area and its been killing me that I couldn't figure out what the song was. It sounds so pretty over those speakers.
choppery / August 25, 2009 at 03:26 pm
This story was a rare bright patch of brilliance in the overflowing dustbin of Blogto mediocrity. I want to give you a prize or something, but you solved the Lambada mystery, a reward no doubt untoppable by my paltry trinkets and baubles.
cnn / August 25, 2009 at 03:30 pm
Great post! Made me laugh!
jon / August 25, 2009 at 03:41 pm
the one around here [gerrard & broadview] adds bark-bark-bark and meow-meow-meow sounds a la jingle cats. it is most disconcerting.
Greg / August 25, 2009 at 03:56 pm
<a href="";>Songs for Ice Cream Trucks</a>
Hoochi Minh / August 25, 2009 at 04:18 pm

I once encountered a tour bus in Vietnam that played the Lambada whenever it reversed (instead of the usual large-vehicle beeping). I appropriately lost my mind. The only thing that could have made it better was if it had also served ice cream.
lisa / August 25, 2009 at 04:33 pm
thanks. Just thanks.
Curious About Ice Cream / August 25, 2009 at 05:03 pm
Did you at least partake in a cone as a reward for a job well done?
Chester Pape / August 25, 2009 at 06:24 pm
A couple weeks ago I was in Agincourt and heard a truck playing La Cucaracha
Adam Sobolak / August 25, 2009 at 07:47 pm
Seriously: I read "Lambada" as "Nambla" at first.
W. K. Lis / August 25, 2009 at 09:05 pm
Is it true that ice cream trucks are forbodden in the City of Brampton and Mississauga? Or is it just residential streets that they are forbidden in those two cities? What about the other suburban cities?
nowhere / August 26, 2009 at 04:11 am
I had an ice cream truck pass me which was playing the news from the speakers.
james kachan / August 26, 2009 at 05:43 am
I'm at King and Dowling. It makes daily rounds.
The music struck me too!
I was thinking..."wow. what is this... really, really, sad sounding music? I think.. it's coming from an ice cream truck!"

which is amazing.
Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen / August 26, 2009 at 04:01 pm
I live near Queen and Dufferin and hear that ice cream truck all the time. I've found the song sounds a little creepy and off. Now I know why :) So funny.
mrx / August 26, 2009 at 05:11 pm
Who cares what song he plays??????? why be so gay
mia / August 26, 2009 at 10:57 pm
best investigation ever.
Warren / August 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm
Hilarious. I've heard it.
Catherine / August 28, 2009 at 12:44 am
Besides the unique songs he plays, the ice cream man himself is nice, kind and generous to kids and elderly. I've never encounter a man that would say, "it's okay you can pay me next time," or if you made a wrong order he would gladly exchange it to the ice cream you really want with a SMILE:) Wish all ice cream vendors would be like that.
Elle Driver / September 7, 2009 at 05:26 pm
I was waiting for the streetcar at Yonge/St. Clair today, and I heard "We Are The World" blaring from the distance. I turn my head, and see a tricked-out ice cream truck coming down the street - it was covered in spray-painted graffiti, but with amusing ice-cream related imagery (ie. a happy polar bear eating a Rocket popsicle.)

It was awesome, and if I had any spare change on me, I would have chased it down the street!
Lauren / June 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm
In my parents' neighbourhood, the ice cream truck plays "On the Floor" by J.Lo. I had to question why my dad even knew the song well enough to whistle the tune.
John / March 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm
Check out WWW.ICECREAMKINGDOM.COM seems pretty cool
John replying to a comment from X / March 1, 2012 at 10:40 pm
I've seen quite a few neat companies out there this site here looked pretty neat
anna / March 13, 2012 at 09:33 pm
I got ice cream from this truck once. I never imagined a weird guy with a nasty beard would make my ice cream. I had to buy one i couldn't just leave. His truck was so dirty. There are lots of clean and nice ice cream trucks out there. Just chose the right one.
Tay / August 22, 2012 at 04:04 am
Haha, oh my god, I was walking my dog today near High Park and this guy drove by! So thankful.
jen / November 14, 2012 at 03:26 pm
Thank goodness I saw this blog.. I was starting to think that the ice cream man in my neighborhood was some kind of a weirdo playing that song!! I thought it was so strange that I had to look it up!
goose / May 7, 2013 at 08:31 pm
best ice cream truck song ever. I bought 2 medium soft serve cones from this dude last night on Geary!
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