Sunday, June 7, 2015

Echos de Guantanamera

A Riff on a Riff on a Riff...

The post on Cuban music awhile back got me feeling nostalgic. I have a collection of around 200 CDs from all over Latin America, but I am far from an expert on the subject. Still, I thought I'd share one of my favorite versions of one of my favorite songs, Guantanamera.

As a bonus, I've included a famous song from Argentinian Luis Aguilé, composed in the same style as Guantanamera.

Guillermo Portabales - Guantanamera
There are about ten bajillion versions of this song, but I particularly love this one.  Instead of faithfully following the words of José Fernández, who wrote Guantanamera in the 1920's, Guillermo Portabales does his own lyrical riff, giving a nod to the nation of Colombia where he lived for many years. 

But that's OK,  Fernández based the song on a few quatrains of "Los Versos Sencillos" de Jose Marti and added a chorus about a campesino girl from Guantanamo he was in love with, hence the song title, Guantanamera.

Fernández composed Guantanamera as a traditional Cuban campesino guajira, which is a rustic style of Spanish-influenced music that, along with Son and drum rhythms from parts of Africa, forms the roots of subsequent Cuban music.

Guillermo Portabales, whose style is often described as languid and melancholy, was a soulful master of the guajira, and he is still beloved by millions of aficionados who enjoy his music.

Anyway, the tune to Guantanamera is a common one musicians will riff off of and have fun improvising.  The Mexican standard, La Bamba gets played around with in much the same way. Portabales was skilled guitarrista, and he is the one doing the complex guitar work in this song.

Luis Aguilé - Cuando Sali de Cuba
Argentinian Luis Aguilé's iconic song, Cuando Sali de Cuba (Translated:  When I left Cuba, I Left my Heart buried There) became the de facto anthem of Cuban exiles.  If you listen closely, you can hear echoes of Guantanamera.

Cubanita en Colorado wrote a touching dedication on Aguilé's death back in 2009.  She includes an English translation of the song and a video of Aguilé singing it back when he was a young man.

¡Que Desfruten el domingo!

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