23 diciembre 2012

La canción de la semana #350

Silly, silly, silly. But good: Yo digo baila by Mexican Institute of Sound.

06 diciembre 2012

La canción de la semana #348

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck passed away yesterday. Today it should have been his 92nd birthday.

Nostalgia de Mexico is the only Brubeck's original from the 1967 LP Bravo! Brubeck!, recorded live in Mexico. The classic Dave Brubeck quartet featuring Paul Desmond (alto sax), Eugene Wright (bass) and Joe Morello (drums) is augmented by guests Benjamin "Chamin" Correa (guitar) and Salvador "Rabito" Agueros (percussion).

23 noviembre 2012

Cuentos hispánicos 1

Finally, I made it to the end!

My first attempt to read this book was in 2006. Alas, I got stuck in the very beginning; to be precise, in the middle of the first story, Emma Zunz. That was frustrating, for I read this story before (not in Spanish, though). Had I known then that this is one of the easier stories in the book, I would be even more frustrated.

Seven years later, one of them living in Spain: yes, apparently I can read Spanish literature. It took me "only" about two months to go through the eight stories. And then, without parallel text, it would take even longer. The overall mood of these stories is fluctuating from nostalgia to despair, with many shades of melancholy, pain and desire to kill in between. Is this selection supposed to be representative of twentieth century Hispanic fiction? My favourite stories are El presupuesto and La romería.

  1. Jorge Luis Borges, Emma Zunz (translated by Donald A. Yates)
    Classic Borges story told in his laconic, matter-of-fact, almost emotionless style.
  2. Mario Benedetti, El presupuesto / The Budget (translated by Gerald Brown)
    I couldn't help noticing certain parallels with Gogol's Шинель here. The Second Clerk even buys himself an overcoat (el sobretodo) in anticipation of salary increase.
  3. H. A. Murena, El coronel de caballería / The Cavalry Colonel (translated by Gordon Brotherston)
  4. Gabriel García Márquez, Monólogo de Isabel viendo llover en Macondo / Isabel's Soliloquy: Watching the Rain in Macondo (translated by Richard Southern)
    Originally, written as a part of One Hundred Years of Solitude but not included in the final version.
  5. Juan Carlos Onetti, Bienvenido, Bob / Welcome, Bob (translated by Donald T. Shaw)
    I spend far too many days reading this story, thanks to the author's love for long sentences.
  6. Camilo José Cela, La romería (translated by Gordon Brotherston)
    An outing of a middle-class family dominated by two harpies. Absolutely brilliant.
  7. Carlos Martínez Moreno, Paloma / The Pigeon (translated by Giovanni Pontiero)
    En la ciudad de un millón de habitantes hay ya más de cien locos que crían palomas.
  8. Juan Rulfo, Talpa (translated by J.A. Chapman)
    I liked Rulfo's writing style, but the story itself is rather depressing, even by the standards of this book.
Esa paz ya resuelta y casi definitiva que pesaba en nuestra Oficina, dejándonos conformes con nuestro pequeño destino y un poco torpes debido a nuestra falta de insomnios, se vio un día alterada por la noticia que trajo el Oficial Segundo. Era sobrino de un Oficial Primero del Ministerio y resulta que ese tío — dicho sea sin desprecio y con propiedad — había sabido que allí se hablaba de un presupuesto nuevo para nuestra Oficina. Como en el primer momento no supimos quién o quiénes eran los que hablaban de nuestro presupuesto, sonreímos con la ironía de lujo que reservábamos para algunas ocasiones, como si el Oficial Segundo estuviera un poco loco o como si nosotros pensáramos que él nos tomaba por un poco tontos.
Mario Benedetti, El presupuesto
This settled, almost absolute, peace that weighed down on our office, leaving us resigned to our little destinies and somewhat sluggish on account of not losing any sleep, was shattered one day by some news brought by the Second Clerk. He was a nephew of a Head Clerk in the Ministry, and it turned out that this uncle (speaking properly and without disrespect) had learnt that there was talk of a new budget for our office. As we didn't know at first what person or persons had been talking about our budget, we smiled with that particularly luxurious irony that we reserved for certain occasions, as if the Second Clerk was a bit mad, or as if we realized that he thought we were a bit stupid.
Mario Benedetti, The Budget

16 noviembre 2012

La canción de la semana #345

¡Feliz Día Internacional del Flamenco!

This week's song is A Lola performed by Estrella Morente. Her new album Autorretrato is out now.

03 noviembre 2012

La canción de la semana #343

...is Ya Basta by Canada's The Souljazz Orchestra.

This song appears on Solidarity, "a multicultural album recorded by a group of international expats and Canadian natives on a surplus Tascam eight-track tape machine bought from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police..." (Songlines).

02 noviembre 2012

Merece la pena tuitear

No, I am not making it up: try to Google the web with this very phrase.

I don't particularly like Twitter. Maybe it is because of the people who clog it with incessant twitting. And while I appreciate that studies such as statistical analysis of 40 million Twitter messages may eventually shed some light on modern language evolution, I have no slightest inclination to follow any particular person.

So... ¿Tuitear o no tuitear? After some hesitation, I've created a Twitter account, @unaspalabritas, to put there some (mostly Spanish) words and expressions I come across, and their definitions. Vamos a ver si se trata de cualquier uso.

13 octubre 2012

La canción de la semana #340

Isabel Vargas Lizano, better known as Chavela Vargas, passed away on 5 August at the age of 93. Three Mexican stars, Ely Guerra, Eugenia León and Tania Libertad, will be paying a homage to the great singer on 27 November at the Carnegie Hall, as a part of the Celebrate México Now! festival.

This week's song is La Bruja, beautifully sung by Eugenia León some 20 years ago. Alternative, but not less beautiful, version is a duet of León and Lila Downs.

22 septiembre 2012

La canción de la semana #337

I think by now everybody should have seen far too many dance "flashmob" videos to enjoy another one. But check this out. In fact, this is not a flashmob at all.

Universal Children's Day, 20 November 2010. Plaza Vieja, Havana, Cuba.
Song: Gente by Raúl Paz.
Choreography: Eduardo Blanco.

09 septiembre 2012

La canción de la semana #335

...is La Abuelita by Marco Granados, Roberto Koch and Jorge Glem. The Venezualan trio could be heard on 20 September 2012 at Longy School of Music (27 Garden St., Cambridge, MA, 02138); admission is free.

26 agosto 2012

La canción de la semana #333

The cliche is that Mexican Americans are neither truly Mexicans or true Americans. But we are both and much more.
Eugene Rodriguez

This week's song is A Tu Lado by Los Cenzontles. It appears on the band's new album Regeneration, to be released on 9 October 2012.

12 agosto 2012

La canción de la semana #331

Para bailar la bomba buena, tu lo tienes que sentir
Yo te invito a bailarla ahora no te vengas a cohibir

This week's song is Te Invito by Puerto-Rican bomberos Hijos de Agüeybaná, from their new album Agua del Sol.

05 agosto 2012

29 julio 2012

La canción de la semana #329

Ondatrópica is a Colombian project masterminded by producers Will "Quantic" Holland and Mario Galeano. As Songlines put it, it is "a Buena Vista Social Club-style meeting between experience and youth". Except it does not sound anything like BVSC. Check this out: cumbia accordion meets beatboxing on 3 Reyes de la Terapia.

In addition to its tasteful reinterpretations of classic Colombian styles, one of the best things about this debut is that the sound is so unpolished. Rather than aiming for overblown perfectionism, this pleasingly anarchic project that draws together 42 musicians has kept its grooves loose, the permitted spontaneity keeping the vibe feeling that much more real.

21 julio 2012

La canción de la semana #328

According to Wikipedia,

in 1539, a dance called a zarabanda is mentioned in a poem written in Panama by Fernando Guzmán Mexía. Apparently the dance became popular in the Spanish colonies before moving back across the Atlantic to Spain. While it was banned in Spain in 1583 for its obscenity, it was frequently cited in literature of the period (for instance in works by Cervantes and Lope de Vega).
This week's song is dedicated to the memory of Jon Lord, who died on 16 July: Sarabande, from his 1976 album of the same name.

15 julio 2012

La canción de la semana #327

...is Cocinandos by Drums United, an international drums supergroup founded by Lucas Van Merwijk. The band includes musicians from Bangladesh, Germany, Iran, The Netherlands, Senegal, Suriname and Venezuela.

07 julio 2012

La canción de la semana #326

All the way from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, comes Nayaband. Created and fronted by Nayaban Jean, the group includes musicians from Senegal, Spain and Venezuela. Nayaband opened their amazing live set at the Fuerteventura en Música festival yesterday night with Rasta.

28 junio 2012

Fuerteventura en Música 2012

The festival Fuerteventura en Música is a highlight of the year here, music-wise. It will take place in El Cotillo on 6 and 7 July (actually finishing in early hours of 8 July). This years's line-up includes Canteca de Macao (Spain), Electrolapas (Fuerteventura), Huecco (Spain), Krema Kawa (Belgium), La Phaze (France), Chila Lynn (Cuba), Marujita (Spain), Meneo (Guatemala), Nayaband (Senegal-Canary Islands), Althay Páez (Fuerteventura) and Chabola Vip (Argentina). Special bus services from/to Corralejo and Puerto del Rosario will be available for the festival-goers.

24 junio 2012

La canción de la semana #324

Fetén Fetén is a project of two Spanish musicians, Jorge Arribas and Diego Galaz. I first learned about them from a Spanish TV programme several days ago. This week's song (which was also featured in the programme) is called Vals para Amelia: Arribas on accordion, Galaz on violin and saw.

Vals para Amelia

12 junio 2012

Más expresiones canarias

First published 12 June 2012 @ sólo algunas palabras

Since last October, I have been attending and thoroughly enjoying Spanish classes organised by CEPA (Centro de Educación de Personas Adultas) Fuerteventura Norte. But every good thing comes to an end: we had our last class today. Unfortunately, it is not clear if the classes will even continue next academic year, what with all the disgraceful budget cuts.

One evening I walked in the classroom and found these on the blackboard. Before the class started, I took care to copy them in my book — to share these colourful expressions with the world!

¡Agüita! a¡Qué pasada! o ¡Cuidado!
amarrar el burro al guayabero bestar ligando
arrancar la pencamarcharse, irse
batata, bobomierda, papafrita, toletetonto, bobo (depende del tono, puede ser en broma o insulto)
enterao de la caja el aguapersona que lo sabe todo (despectivo), un listillo
estar como un pejín c estar delgado
¡Fuerte chiquillo cocúo / morrúo!¡Qué persona testaruda!
ir embalao d / follaoir muy rápido
¡Ñoss! e / ¡Choss! fpara expresar algo exagerado
tener el rabo torniao gestar del mal humor, enfadado
  1. "Es una expresión popular canaria, muy utilizada en Tenerife, que se dice como coletilla cuando alguien lee, oye o ve algo que le impresiona o llama la atención especialmente, ya sea por su novedad, curiosidad, ironía o porque le resulta escandaloso o impactante" (¿Qué es agüita?)
  2. Guayabero means "guava tree". But why one would tie the donkey to the guava tree? Maybe because he is after guayabas? Guayaba means not only "guava fruit" but also "young girl".
  3. pejín a small fish, salted and dried (from pez)
  4. embalado fast (from bala bullet)
  5. Also ¡Ñohh! "Estoy sorprendido por lo que acabo de ver u oír" (from coño)
  6. "Superlativo de ¡Ñohh!"
  7. torniao = torneado, torcido

30 mayo 2012

La canción de la semana #321

Día de Canarias is a relatively new holiday which is celebrated throughout all the Canary Islands. I thought rock would suit this holiday better than a traditional Canarian song. So here it is: Niño Malo from rather irreverent conejero band Oscartienealas.

Niño Malo

27 mayo 2012

La canción de la semana #320

...is Durme performed by Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble. The band's double album East and West will be released on 12 June 2012. More music can be heard at the LDL Ensemble website.

19 mayo 2012

La canción de la semana #319

Until recently, I thought that Hernando's Hideaway is an English-language version of some Argentine tango. Well it isn't. It was written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross for the musical The Pajama Game. The original Broadway production (1954) featured choreography by Bob Fosse. Here's a fragment of 1957 film with Carol Haney and John Raitt.

Debelah Morgan's hit song Dance With Me, aka Baila Conmigo, is based on this tune (one can see the words Hernando's Hideaway in the beginning of videoclip).

25 abril 2012

La canción de la semana #316

Colombians reacted to the news that the US Secret Service agents were caught up in a sex scandal in a truly Caribbean way: José Quessep Primera wrote a champeta song dedicated to the poor "knuckleheads" involved in the "night out" in Cartagena.

Esta es la historia de los gringos que vinieron en plan de trabajo,
y salieron enredados.
Los agentes secretos no pensaron en Obama,
solamente ellos pensaban estar en la cama
¡Ay Obama te dejaron solito!

22 abril 2012

La canción de la semana #315

Fuerteventura may be far away from Seville, but from 21 to 29 April, we also have Feria de Abril — right here in C.C. El Campanario, with live acts, flamenco dress fashion and horse show... Don't miss it!

This week's song is famous A bailar, a bailar by Cantores de Híspalis.

21 abril 2012

Léxico Canario para chonis

First published 21 April 2012 @ sólo algunas palabras

Whenever you order a cup of coffee (or tea) in Canaries, you have an opportunity to learn a bit of vernacular. The Canarian company, Café Ortega, came up with a brilliant idea: to put Canarian words (canarismos) where they are least expected... on sugar sachets. I don't take sugar with my hot drinks, but when I saw a sachet with the word zumbadera on it, I just had to take action. And when I say action, I mean a bit of internet research. Luckily for me, some people not only collect sugar sachets, but share their treasures with the world. Adriana, a schoolgirl and a budding sucrologist from Gran Canaria, did just that. I used many of the words from her collection in the table below.

Mind you, these sugar-sachet definitions of canarismos can be tricky, and not just for chonis (foreign tourists) but for the Spanish speakers too. For example, matraquilla is defined as "pesado con idea fija, obsesión, guineo". Guineo? In Collins Spanish-English Dictionary, guineo means "banana". But according to Léxico Canario y Palabras Canarias guide, guineo means "repetitive talk" or "nonsense". Or take mago: "campurrio, maúro, hombre del campo" — both campurrio and maúro are Canarian words themselves.

Spanish Wikipedia classifies canarismos as follows:

  • Derived from Spanish or its dialects
  • Derived from old Castilian, or archaisms
  • Derived from other languages
The latter include those "borrowed" from Guanche language, for instance baifo, gofio, or tabaiba; Portuguese, such as margullar or millo; and English, e.g. bisne (business), fonil (funnel) or quinegua (King Edward potato).


aboyadoharto de comer, lleno hasta reventar
ahuevadocon forma esférica o de huevo
alongarseasomarse, proyectar el busto hacia adelante
arrentea ras, próximo a, seguido de
bañabarriga, chicha, gordura
belingofiesta, jolgorio
bembaslabios (generalmente gruesos)
bisnenegocio de carácter trapisondista
bochinchecafetín, taberna, cantina
cachimbapipa para fumar tabaco
cachorrosombrero que usa el canario
cambadocurvado, torcido, doblado
cartuchobolsa de papel para envolver
chisparlloviznar, llover ligeramente
choniturista extranjero, guiri
destupirdesatascar, dejar libre el paso de una corriente del agua
encabronarseirritarse, ponerse furioso
enyesquetapa, pequeña porción de alimento para acompañar la bebida
escoñarestropear, dejar algo inservible
escobillónel cepillo de barrer
fañosoque habla con pronunciación nasal, constipado, resfriado
farrucobravucón, matón
fechillocerrojo, pasador para cerrar puertas y ventanas
jalartirar de algo con la mano
jeitomaña, habilidad
jeringarsefastidiarse, conformarse
jocicoboca, principalmente de animal aunque también se usa para personas
liñacuerdas para tender la ropa
magocampurrio, maúro, hombre del campo
maguapena, desconsuelo, añoranza
majadagolpe (normalmente en las manos)
margullarbucear, sumergirse
matraquillapesado con idea fija, obsesión, guineo
ñoñosdedos de los pies
partigazotortazo contra el suelo, peñazo
pastuñoexcremento de animal o persona
quequebizcocho (postre)
quineguatipo de papa (proviene del inglés King Edward)
rañasucio, encachazado
rayaranotar puntos de la partida "arrayar"
rodarsedesplazarse hacia un lado
roscapalomita de maíz
ruín1. Se dice del niño muy travieso, inquieto y revoltoso. 2. Se dice de los alimentos con mal sabor.
sancochadohervido, guisado
solajerosol muy fuerte
tangonazobeber de un golpe, lingotazo
tenderetefiesta, reunión de gente divirtiéndose
teniquepiedra grande
toletelerdo, torpe
tongapila o porción de cosas apiladas en orden
ventorrilloquiosco de feria de comidas y bebidas
verguillaalambre de hierro
zarandajoinformal, persona en la que no se puede confiar
zumbaderaaturdimiento, atontamiento

15 abril 2012

La canción de la semana #314

...is The Girl is Gone — a tasty flamenco-funk-R&B fudge I mean, fusion from the New York City band Caramelo. Their debut album Ride is out on May 29, 2012.

08 abril 2012

La canción de la semana #313

El Choclo was composed at the turn of the 20th Century by Argentine Ángel Villoldo. According to Roberto Selles,
Undoubtedly, next to La cumparsita it is the tango tune most widely spread.
The vocal versions of El Choclo were recorded by Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Julio Iglesias and many others. But I'd rather stick to the instrumental. I really like this rendition by Italian jazz pianist Paolo Di Sabatino.

El Choclo

27 marzo 2012

Islas Afortunadas

Reading One Hundred Years of Solitude in translation of Gregory Rabassa, I came across the following passage:
It was incomprehensible why a woman with that spirit would have returned to a dead town burdened by dust and heat, and much less with a husband who had more than enough money to live anywhere in the world and who loved her so much that he let himself be led around by her on a silk leash. As time passed, however, her intention to stay was more obvious, because she did not make any plans that were not a long way off, nor did she do anything that did not have as an aim the search for a comfortable life and a peaceful old age in Macondo. The canary cage showed that those aims were made up on the spur of the moment. Remembering that her mother had told her in a letter about the extermination of the birds, she had delayed her trip several months until she found a ship that stopped at the Fortunate Isles and there she chose the finest twenty-five pairs of canaries so that she could repopulate the skies of Macondo. That was the most lamentable of her numerous frustrated undertakings. As the birds reproduced Amaranta Úrsula would release them in pairs, and no sooner did they feel themselves free than they fled the town. She tried in vain to awaken love in them by means of the bird cage that Úrsula had built during the first reconstruction of the house. Also in vain were the artificial nests built of esparto grass in the almond trees and the birdseed strewn about the roofs, and arousing the captives so that their songs would dissuade the deserters, because they would take flights on their first attempts and make a turn in the sky, just the time needed to find the direction to the Fortunate Isles.
Something is wrong here, I thought. For comparison, here's the original:
No era comprensible que una mujer con aquel espíritu hubiera regresado a un pueblo muerte, deprimido por el polvo y el calor, y menos con un marido que tenía dinero de sobra para vivir bien en cualquier parte del mundo, y que la amaba tanto que se había sometido a ser llevado y traído por ella con el dogal de seda. Sin embargo, a medida que el tiempo pasaba era más evidente su intención de quedarse, pues no concebía planes que no fueran a largo plazo, ni tomaba determinaciones que no estuvieran orientadas a procurarse una vida cómoda y una vejez tranquila en Macondo. La jaula de canarios demostraba que esos propósitos no eran improvisados. Recordando que su madre le había contado en una carta el exterminio de los pájaros, habla retrasado el viaje varios meses hasta encontrar un barco que hiciera escala en las islas Afortunadas, y allí seleccionó las veinticinco parejas de canarios más finos para repoblar el cielo de Macondo. Esa fue la más lamentable de sus numerosas iniciativas frustradas. A medida que los pájaros se reproducían, Amaranta Úrsula los iba soltando por parejas, y más tardaban en sentirse libres que en fugarse del pueblo. En vano procuró encariñarles con la pajarera que construyó Úrsula en la primera restauración. En vano les falsificó nidos de esparto en los almendros, y regó alpiste en los techos y alborotó a los cautivos para que sus cantos disuadieran a los desertores, porque éstos se remontaban a la primera tentativa y daban una vuelta en el cielo, apenas el tiempo indispensable para encontrar el rumbo de regreso a las islas Afortunadas.
See? The translation goes "The canary cage showed that those aims were made up on the spur of the moment" while García Márquez writes "La jaula de canarios demostraba que esos propósitos no eran improvisados". That is, Amaranta Úrsula's aims were not "made up on the spur of the moment".

The Fortunate Isles (islas Afortunadas), or μακάρων νῆσοι in Greek, are what is now known as Macaronesia, a group of archipelagos that includes Canary Islands. I suspect it was one of Canaries where Amaranta Úrsula stopped for shopping.

25 marzo 2012

La canción de la semana #311

This week I'd like to introduce an amazing band from Brooklyn: Chicha Libre! According to the band's website,

Chicha Libre plays a mixture of latin rhythms, surf and psychedelic pop inspired by Peruvian music from Lima and the Amazon. The Brooklyn collective is made up of French, American, Venezuelan and Mexican musicians who mix up covers of Peruvian Chicha with original compositions in French, Spanish and English, re-interpretation of 70's pop classics as well as cumbia versions of pieces by likes of Satie, Love and Wagner. Chicha is originally the name of a corn-based liquor favored by the Incas in pre-colombian days. Chicha is also the name of Peru's particular brand of cumbia first made popular in the late 60's by bands such as Los Destellos, Manzanita, Los Mirlos and Juaneco y su Combo.
Wait, what Wagner? That Wagner. Enjoy The Ride of the Valkyries from Chicha Libre's forthcoming album Canibalismo.

Chicha Libre "The Ride of The Valkyries" por franceculture

10 marzo 2012

La canción de la semana #309

Continuing with cumbia: this week's song is Nunca es tarde by Canteca de Macao, from their new album of the same title. As usual, the entire album is available for free, well, everything: listening, download, sharing and redistribution.

letra y música Chiki Lora
Miro desde abajo se me nubla el horizonte
hoy no encuentro más peldaños,
solamente me consuela ver tus labios
y rozar tu piel.
Pasa toda la vida, me limito a mi trabajo
soy esclavo de mi ruina,
me atormenta el día a día,
me consuelo y encarcelo mi placer.

Nunca es tarde para ser sincero,
nunca es tarde para volver a empezar,
nunca es tarde para ser sincero,
nunca es tarde para volver...

Vientos de Levante, oscuras noches en balde,
mareas de Santiago, sentimientos incesantes
que me abruman y entorpecen mi qué hacer.
Pasas toda la vida enfermizo en tu trabajo,
no vislumbras horizontes, te atormentas sin sentido,
te consuelo, pero vuelves a caer.

Nunca es tarde para ser sincero...

Porque la vida se resbala y no me deja entender,
cuantas situaciones tienen que acontecer,
para deslumbrar mi manera de ser,
vivir en libertad y fornicar por placer.

Viajar a un destino cualquiera,
decidir lo que merece la pena,
luchar por objetivos y metas,
decir más a menudo: te quiero

Nunca es tarde para ser sincero...

19 febrero 2012

La canción de la semana #306

Moliendo Café was composed in 1958 by Venezuelan Hugo Blanco and was covered by innumerable artists since then. My favourite versions of this song are those by Xiomara Laugart, Fanfare Ciocărlia and Canteca de Macao. The one I discovered today is by Japanese harpist Mika Agematsu.

01 enero 2012

La canción de la semana #299

...is Los Hermanos, performed by Bïa Krieger and Lhasa de Sela. Lhasa died of breast cancer on the New Year day 2010 aged 37. A live tribute to the singer, La route chante, will take place 6 January 2012 at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal.