Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Siempre en mi corazón (Always in my heart)

I came back from Cuba with a great hunger for more of the wonderful music I was exposed to there but also with the knowledge that I was starting from zero - I had absolutely no knowledge or understanding of the different types of Cuban music, no idea of what the kinds I loved best were called, and no idea where to start learning.

For that reason it seemed prudent to begin with something accessible - The Buena Vista Social Club, produced by Ry Cooder, which is sort of an introductory tour of traditional Cuban music featuring some of Cuba's best-loved and most brilliant singers and musicians.

These songs are wonderful. They cover a variety of Cuban musical styles. The liner notes include Spanish lyrics and English translations; some of the lyrics stand alone as sheer poetry:
¿Y Tú Qué Has Hecho? (What have you done?)

On the trunk of a tree, a young girl
Filled with joy, carved out her name
The tree, touched to the core
Let a flower drop down to the girl.

I am the tree, sad and moved
You are the girl who wounded my bark
I will always treasure your beloved name
And you, what have you done with my poor flower?
- Eusebio Delfin

I also discovered Cooder went back to Cuba to record solo CDs for a number of outstanding Cuban performers as part of a Buena Vista Social Club series. So I also scooped up Buena Vista Social Club presents Ibrahim Ferrer and Buena Vista Social Club presents Omara Portuondo.

Ferrer is highly respected and admired in Cuba for his ability to improvise clever lyrics on the spot for a type of Cuban music called descarga, extended jams during which singers make up double-entendre-laden and sexually charged lyrics as they go.

(A sample:
"Oh, mama, what's happened? Oh, mama, what's happened?
It's Tula's bedroom! It's gone up in flames!
She fell asleep and didn't blow out the candle!
Call Ibrahim Ferrer! Call the fire brigade!
I think Tula wants them to put out her fire!

Oh, here comes Eliades amid the commotion
He's come to see Tula's bedroom in flames!

Carlo and Marco are watching the fire
If it isn't put out now, it will have to be put out later!")
The result is a riotous party atmosphere.

I have only just begun dipping into these riches. The weather here is crap right now... these cds are taking me right back to a warm, dry, sunny beach that it seems I left just yesterday. I am so looking forward to swimming in that music again... and again!

Aw, hell. My co-worker, "Lillian", was right. I turned around and fell in love with Cuba.

At least Husband has the same obsession condition.

I'm also pretty keen to check out the Mozart meets Cuba cd Mary Ellen is enjoying. Sounds like a match made in heaven.


ronnie

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5 Comments:

Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Two very different observations (neither associated with my personal enjoyment of the BVSC material I've been exposed to):

1) I'm beginning to suspect that people who visit island nations tend to come back obsessed. At least that's the way it seems to have worked out for you and me. Maybe next, you should visit Japan and I'll try out Iceland.

2) What a wonderful, wonderful circumstance that you live in an era when cochlear implants are possible.

11:05 PM  
Blogger ronnie said...

1) I'm beginning to suspect that people who visit island nations tend to come back obsessed. At least that's the way it seems to have worked out for you and me. Maybe next, you should visit Japan and I'll try out Iceland.

Ooh, s'okay with me!

You're right about island nations being... different, somehow. I remember reading a wonderful poem years ago by a New Zealand poet that expressed that perfectly - how islands' isolation and distance somehow distills into their inhabitants' character. And, as someone raised on an island, out in the middle of the north Atlantic, I understood... so much. Sadly, I've lost the poem and a Google search has not been helpful.

Japan next? Japan's always been a long-term goal of mine. Iceland - good choice, for as you know, "Iceland is actually green, and Greenland is actually ice!" (At least, that's the common wisdom 'round here, and 'round here is having our asses hanging out over the North Atlantic, so you can pretty much take our word for it.)

2) What a wonderful, wonderful circumstance that you live in an era when cochlear implants are possible.

Isn't it, though? Oh, god, I kept thinking all day, isn't it.

ronnie

9:58 PM  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

well, i've visited the UK several times, and that's an island, more or less. and i sure as hey dint fall in love with it. i think to be a proper island, worthy of being fallen in love with, a place has to have lots of sun, beaches, dark-skinned people, rum drinks, and happy music. if you live in a place with lots of clouds and rain/snow, rocky shorelines, anemic-looking natives (minus the freckles), fermented grain drinks, and bilious music, it stands to reason you're gonna lose your heart in one of those warm islands. in my youth, i adored madeline island in lake superior, it didn't have any of the proper island things except a 3-mile sandy beach, but when i was there, i always felt safe....i figured they wouldn't come across water to drag me back. and it had gorgeous woods and wildflowers and fireflies. if you find a good place, go there as often as the old exchequer will allow.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

i think to be a proper island, worthy of being fallen in love with, a place has to have lots of sun, beaches, dark-skinned people, rum drinks, and happy music.

Sheesh, XE, you've just described an antimatter Ireland (except for a tiny bit of the music.)

As for the UK, it abrogated its island-ness back in the days of Empire, when they annexed huge parts of other people's continents to themselves and their exchequer.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

ronnie (and XE), I hope you don't mind me using this venue to reply to e-mail from XE -- my e-mail reply to her bounced:

First, thanks so much for your kind words, XE, they were very much appreciated.

What I meant by "antimatter Ireland" is that the attributes you listed (lots of sun, etc.) are the opposites of what you'd find in Eire. Even their music has a reputation that's a bit different from happy. Mike Peterson once alerted me to these four lines from Chesterton's "The Ballad of the White Horse":

For the Great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad.

1:20 PM  

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