As a special request here is a review of “La Palomilla” by Joe Cuba (this video shows one interpretation of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5buMguSmLUs.).
This song is an example of what I refer to as a simple salsa. I don’t mean simple in a bad way, more in that there is no distraction to it. It is a salsa sound, pure and simple. The pure rhythm is somewhat reminiscent of latin jazz, the main difference being the absence of the large brass ensemble. If you listen, all you hear is the clave, keyboard and percussion. The instrumentation is a reminder of the roots of salsa. The pace is excellent and not rushed. The advantage, dance wise, to this is that there is no need to rush and actually lets you be highly creative due to its constant sound. The discerning ear will quickly realize that shines are not only appropriate, but almost mandatory. From a learners’ point of view, the beat is easily distinguished and followed, making it ideal for learning how to pick up the beat.
Now, what is the song saying? Well, La Palomilla means the little dove. More accurately, it is an allusion to the dove of peace. However, the intent is not a dove spreading peace but rather salsa (which of course brings its own sense of love ). As the song starts, picture a dove taking flight from the Dominican, spreading salsa over everywhere it flies. The lyrics aren’t complex, they just basically say that ‘the little dove invites you to dance.’ It goes on to say that if you play the raspa (an instrument where a metal fork is scraped across a corrugated wooden surface), or any instrument for that reason, then you’ll want to dance. Again, the simplicity of the lyrics is echoed by the instrumentation.
Being a former brass player, I love songs that have large brass section, however, the lack of that does not detract from the enjoyment of this song. There are sections where all you hear is the clave and keyboard building up to the percussion. These stretches put you on the edge of a musical explosion, and when that explosion is reached it just feels right and the song takes off.
All in all, I really enjoy this song. While it may not come to mind right away, it is still an homage to traditional salsa and can be called nothing short of salsa sabrosa (sabrosa means delicious, tasty). A very good aspect of this song is to show that there are different styles of salsa, different paces, and each one is just as good to dance to as the next. Overall, strong song, appropriate lyrics and musicality. Whether you remember it or not, you’ll enjoy dancing to it. Hasta la proxima….
Welcome to the first edition of Guerra Musical (Musical War). The purpose of this blog is to gain a further understanding of what is being said in those catchy latin songs you enjoy dancing to. I’ll provide some insight into the songs, translate the lyrics and try to establish the feel the song is trying to convey…you’d be surprised how many latin songs sound completely different from their meaning. As an added bonus, the reviewed songs will be pitted against each other and judged on 3 criteria: 1) The sound of the song; 2) Danceability and; 3) how well the music expresses the lyrics (and vice-versa). Seeing as this is the first contest, feel free to comment on things you like, don’t like, want added, etc. Also, please suggest songs (and don’t just limit it to salsa, throw in some merengue, bachata and even reggaeton if you wish), after all, these blogs are written for your enjoyment. So, to kick off the blog let’s pick two songs from a couple of outstanding salsa groups: Colombia’s Grupo Niche and Puerto Rico’s PuertoRican Power.
1. Vamos a Ver (Jeringoza): Grupo Niche; album “Imaginacion” (2004). For a sample: http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:Imaginacion:1922053444;_ylt=AtmTkTkhFs_HuFW.1qWSY3VUvQcF;_ylu=X3oDMTBzZTVhM3RqBF9zAzk1OTUxMTEzBGx0AzQEc2VjA2FydHByb2Q-
2. Tu Cariñito: PuertoRican Power; album “Men In Salsa” (1999). For a sample: http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=1051178&cart=690701496
Vamos a Ver can be translated into ‘Let’s see.’ While not as well known as its competitor, this song attempts the same kind of feel. The mood is playful and light and the song is about a man telling his girlfriend to see what happens when her parents find out about their relationship. Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics (original spanish lyrics: http://www.rosariosalsa.com.ar/letras/niche/vamos_a_ver.htm).
What your mom says
When she finds out
That we love each other.
And let’s see
What your dad says.
He doesn’t let you go out
And that’s why we sneak around
If they can decipher
How we speak,
How we understand each other.
And let’s see
Who laughs at whom?
Let them criticize and talk
And see how much we laugh.
As you can see, the song is playful, kind of like a nice retort from a suitor that will never be accepted by his sweetheart’s parents. It is a medium paced salsa giving plenty of time for styling and execution of moves. The instrumentation is fun, opening with the brass leading into the swinging rhythm and lyrics. At times all music and lyrics stop, giving opportunity for emphatic accentuation. The tune is catchy, staying with you long after you’ve heard it. A later part of the song is filled with pure gibberish; an obvious nod to the “way they talk ” which her parents can’t decipher…a very nice arc in the lyrics.
Tu Cariñito means ‘your love.’ A lot of people will recognize this song, it is a favourite of Sharon’s when teaching the ‘pop’ as styling. As a matter of fact, it is its opening stretch that makes the song so addictive and unique. The gist of the song is simple, a guy looking for a lost love all over the world (original spanish lyrics: http://artists.letssingit.com/puertorican-power-lyrics-tu-carinito-lq71mpz).
I’m searching for you like a madman throughout the world.
And without you I can’t take another minute.
Someone come and tell me now
If you’ve seen her here, or seen her there.
Because I look, I look for her and I can’t find her.
I just want that moment to come
When I tell her that without her I just can’t live
Because I want you to return to me,
And that you give me your love, my love,
And that you fill me with kisses and more,
Because you are the girl that I love.
This is a great song because the music fits perfectly with the tone of the lyrics. It’s a light-hearted plea for a lost love. It is an ode to impending joy at finally finding her once again, and we all know how exuberant we can get at the anticipation of something we dearly want. The instrumentation is complex in its flow and challenges the dancer’s ear in its many beat changes. A dancer not on their game will find themselves off rhythm early and often in this song. However, it is that nuance and the playful tone that gives it a timeless sound typical of this orchestra. Like Vamos a Ver, this is also a mid tempo salsa which allows the dancer to express him/herself fully and gives enough time to ponder what to do next. The intro itself is enough to make this song a favourite for dancing.
Sound of the song
I personally love these kinds of salsas. The tempo is perfect for dancing and the ebullience of the music makes them memorable and gets your feet moving wherever you may be. Having said that, the complexity of Tu Cariñito earns it a mark of 4.5 out of 5 compared to the 3.5 for Vamos a Ver.
As explained before, Tu Cariñito is a more complex song to dance to because of the changes in beat. Vamos a Ver is consistent throughout and gives more shine opportunities. Both are enjoyable but for matters of ease, the vote goes in favour of Vamos a Ver, 4 to 3.5.
Musical and Lyrical sync
I love the syncing of music and lyrics in both these songs. The music goes perfectly with the lyrics and vice versa. This is the toughest category to call but I’m going to have to give it to Tu Cariñito by a hair, 4.5 to 5.
Tu Cariñito 13; Vamos a Ver 12
Hope you all enjoyed this first entry…come back next time when two new songs go cabeza a cabeza. And don’t forget, contribute to the blog and be sure to make recommendations, suggestions and nominations.
Bienvenidos a todos!
Let me first thank Sharon for the opportunity to manage this blog and acknowledge the great work that both Alfred and Nina have done on the ‘Salsa in Review’ blog. They provided us with great feedback and anecdotes of the salsa world. For that matter, this blog is not so much a replacement of their excellent work as it is my take on a large component of latin life….the music.
I love latin rhythms and, as salseros and salseras, I’m sure you do too. There is an added depth to latin music in that its dance music (salsa, merengue, bachata, etc.) also tells stories of love, loss, death, tragedy, triumph, comedy and nonsense, to name a few. It is also for this reason that the expression of the music is so vital. I find that the most enjoyable songs are the ones that successfully meld lyrics and instrumentation to create a tune that can get you off your feet and make you feel something as well.
A song in sync is one where the music itself can express what the lyrics are saying without having to know the words, and vice versa. So, what is the idea of this blog? Well, it is a reflection of music. My goal is to give an understanding of what is being said and hopefully by doing this, give the reader a further appreciation of the music. After all, it is one thing to dance, it is quite another to express feeling and emotion through dance.
With that in mind, I want to make this a place where you can have musical questions answered. I’ll talk of things musically related, whether it be songs, bands, performances. Also, on occasion I will provide a “war of the songs” installment where two contenders will be pitted against each other and critiqued on certain categories. Above all, this blog is written for all of you who love latin music. I encourage you to comment and contribute and in that way I hope to write something that is enjoyed by the reader.
Vamos a bailar!
It is time to say goodbye as our current commitments have significantly changed our ability to go out and write about our salsa experiences. We have enjoyed writing our reviews for the Salsa in Review blog and certainly hope that you have enjoyed reading our postings. The both of us certainly hope to continue seeing our readers at the outings, at the clubs and maybe our classes up in Richmond Hill. Salsa continues to be a source of enjoyment for us and we’ll no doubt be seeing you on the dancefloor!
Nina and Alfred