Thursday, September 13, 2007

On The Mend

I haven't been feeling well, so I haven't posted for a little while. I ate something I shouldn't and it most definitely disagreed with me.

In any case, I'm feeling better and I added another "widget" to my sidebar. It's the Itunes Widget. It's supposed to show my favorite music choices, but it only seems to include the purchases I made today, which was all early 1950's. I have lots more favorites than that!!

I also downloaded some 1950's Cuban music - I was selective, though. The loud repetitive horn music I skipped - I opted for ballads with guitar. I have to find more since the few I found were beautiful. I want to look up the lyrics and see if I can find a translation - such as, for Guantanamera, one of my favorites. When I did a search in Itunes for Guantanamera, there were over 50 choices, but most of them were too brassy, too upbeat. I remember the folksy rendition from the 1960's and, although I couldn't find that particular one, I found a few that were close, although I didn't choose Pete Seeger's recording - he doesn't sound authentically Spanish.

OK - I looked up Guantanamera. There is a lot of argument about who actually wrote it. The consensus is that it was a popular melody, like a folk tune - and Jose Marti's poetry was put to it as lyrics.

The other story is that there was a man on the radio,who is the "official" composer according to the Cuban Supreme Court in 1993 - Jose Fernandez Diaz - who put different lyrics to the song all the time, reflecting news stories of the day. He is credited with having begun this in 1929. Since no one is really sure this is the case, he is the first to make the song famous, anyway.

The original lyrics, as written by Fernandez, are about a man who has a girlfriend and he makes a pass at another girl - the original girlfriend sees him, gets disgusted and leaves him. She is the Guajira Guantanamera - peasant girl from Guantanamo.

When the song is sung with the haunting poetry of Jose Marti, and the refrain is sung - literally "peasant girl from Guantanamo" - it doesn't make much sense, but it sure is beautiful. What do I think? I think it was a popular country tune in Cuba in the early 1900's - and the lyrics were about the guy who made his Guajira Guantanamera angry by flirting with another. The song was then hijacked for political purposes and entertainment value.

I found the original on Youtube - it's by the Sandpipers.

There's also a really bad TV show in Miami called, El Show de Fernando Hidalgo. It's fascinating in it's tackiness. There are overweight young girls, probably relatives of workers on the show, dressed in spangled thongs and short tops, dancing as the equally chubby band of spandexed women and scruffy men play Cuban music, sing and shake their hips. This is where they use the song Guantanamera in the same fashion as Jose Fernandez Diaz - they sing the news headlines each day and punctuate these with the chorus, "Guajira Guanatamera". Interesting, in a cultural sort of way - they must have gotten the idea from the old Cuban radio personality. I can't help but watch this show once I happen to come across it while flicking through channels - I can't take my eyes off the bad costumes and the healthy dancing girls. I don't like the show's host - he strikes me as a used car salesman dirty old man with shortness issues (he's shorter than just about everybody on the show, including the young girls) - and something tells me he's as devious and petty as he looks.

Here's some more Spanish music I downloaded. I can't put the music files on here, but Youtube, being the marvelous tool that it is, has just about everything. This is from a Spanish movie in 1951, called Anna - I think the song is called "El Negro Zumbon!"

I also downloaded two more songs from an album called, "Havana 1950" which I cannot find on Youtube, but if you go to this website, and click on the song, "Aprende A Elegir", you will not regret it. The slight crackling hiss in the background sounds old and makes me think of an early 1900's overcolorized view of Havana.

Click on "La Envida" also. Even though you only get a snippet of the song, it sounds like old Cuba - I can smell the flowers and see the bright colors (and it helps that I live in South Florida which is only 90 miles from Cuba and looks a lot like it in places.....)

The last song I like on the album is "Cuarto de Hotel". The rest I don't care for, even if they are very Cuban.

Well, I'm off to Itunes again. I looked up Gordon MacRae to see if there was anything by him I liked. He has my all time favorite male voice. He was the lead in the Broadway musical (about disfunctional and abusive relationships in Maine) called "Carousel". I joke about the plot line, but I adore the music. When I first saw the movie, I was a young teenager and it struck me right in the romantic tragedy zone of my young adolescent heart. Then, when my two older sisters played the two lead female parts in their high school play, it engraved the songs and lyrics on my heart. I still love to listen to it - but only if Gordon MacRae is singing. The second runner up to Gordon is Dennis Morgan, of "Christmas in Connecticut" circa 1945 fame. He was handsome too, as was Gordon MacRae. They're my all time favorites - perfect looks and perfect voices......sigh. Hey - I wonder if Dennis Morgan has anything on Itunes.....

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