Navidad musical

Christmas time is here, and as you know I would say, Puerto Rico is the best place to be during the holidays, or if you are not in the Island, find a Boricua and I guarantee you will have the best season of your life. Today’s blog is a must-read. And if you click on the links in red, you will also listen to great Christmas music from Borinquen. Many of these songs you will hear during our Christmas season that extends until early February (yes, I wrote February!).

Christmas for Boricuas begins in November and depending on how broke and sad we are, we start earlier. This year, 2013 (because I don’t know when you are reading this post) we started early. We celebrate Thanksgiving, then Christmas, New Years, Three Kings and Octavitas, which is eight days after January 6 (Three Kings Day). If you make the math, everything should be done around January 15, but we like having longer parties; no need to rush the end of a good time. We have the longest Christmas Season in the World (just take my word for it).

And every party is better with the proper music. From décimas to Salsa and Merengue, old and new, we have them all. Here is a list of songs and a little bit of explanation to all of them.

  • How about a wing?
    How about a wing?

    Dame la mano paloma (Give me your hand pigeon) – If you read the title it makes no sense since pigeons have no hands, but that’s not the point. The song goes: Dame la mano paloma, para subir a tu nido, que me han dicho que estás sola y a acompañarte he venido. After that part of the song, people can add their own rhymes. For example: El día que me dijiste, que ya tú no me querías (repeat twice), hasta la perra de casa me miraba y se reía (The day you told me you did not love me anymore, even the dog looked at me and laughed). Then you go back to the chorus and so on. You will hear this in EVERY Christmas party where Boricuas are gathered.

  • La bomba. The song goes: La bomba ay que rica es. Le sube el ritmo por los pies. Mulato saca tu trigueña, pa’ que bailes bomba, bomba puertorriqueña. ¡BOMBA! (La Bomba is really good, the rhythm goes up your feet. Mulato, get your lady, so you can dance the Bomba, Puerto Rican Bomba). Then someone says a Bomba like: Una vieja y un viejito se fueron a coger gandules, y estuvieron en la brega sábado, domingo y lunes. ¡BOMBA! (An old guy and an old lady left to get green peas and they stayed on it Saturday, Sunday and Monday). Then the chorus goes again, and so on.
  • Chuito_el_de_Bayamon_-_El_buen_Borincano_-_1976Jíbaro music. In this category we have people like Chuíto el de Bayamón and Andrés Jiménez. The last one is my father’s favorite. The style of music is unique; just a guitar, a cuatro some maracas and a lot of music. The lyrics go from the simple life in the country side to other things in life and Christmas. And the Le lo Lai is always there too. Listen to this song from Andrés Jiménez and you will understand what I’m talking about. 
  • Salsa music. Salsa is one of our most beloved music. Some say it started in Cuba, some others say it was in New York, but everyone agrees a Boricua was behind it. For decades we have enjoyed the music and Christmas time brings new songs to the genre. One of my favorite is Héctor Lavoe. I’m not a huge fan of his regular salsa, but from Christmas season he is really good. This link has the full production Asalto Navideño from back when Christopher Columbus arrived to Puerto Rico.
  • Some Christmases ago...
    Some Christmases ago…

    El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico – the best salsa group in my book. For over 50 years (which means 51) they have sang and made many people around the globe dance and enjoy. They have a couple of hits for Chirstmas season. La fiesta de Pilito, No hay cama pa’ tanta gente, and El Arbolito. They even have TV specials and LP productions just for Christmas season (for those of you who don’t know what an LP is, look it up, and learn some history). And every Chirstmas I dance along with my father to their amazing music.thCA02O2O2

  • Danny Rivera and Vicente Caratini. When I was growing up and my mom played this music, we knew Christmas was officially started. That meant a lot of singing, a lot of eating and some tembleque for the whole neighborhood. El cardenalito is one of my favorite because I sang it in one school play in fourth grade and it means fun time in my mother’s house. It turns on the Christmas switch!

There are many more songs to enjoy Christmas with and I know all of you have a special one, or one you remember for one reason or another. Maybe your drunken uncle played the song even during the summer, or your sister tried to sing the lyrics but was never able to. Now, as an adult and a father I try to do the same thing in my house, so the new part of the family and my sons learn to enjoy the time and have fun memories to write about.

Let me know what song is good for you, or share a bomba with me (any bomba is a good bomba). Write it in the comment section so everyone can see it. Next time, I may talk about Christmas presents, then and now. Until then, cójanlo suave!

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Pride through music

People say music is an universal language. Something like that was proven in a study made by researcher Thomas Fritz, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany. The study showed that regardless of culture or previous exposure, people were accurately able to recognize three emotions in Western music – happiness, sadness and fear. Every culture around the world has its music; melodies that represent certain place or people. Puerto Rico has its own also. Many people say its salsa, many others says is bomba y plena and other says in danza. I will not get into that right now, but we also have music that inspires the true Boricua in us.

Bobby Capó
Bobby Capó

I don’t know if this happens in other countries, but many songs have been dedicated to Borinquen; songs that let us know how great this Island is. One of those songs is Soñando con Puerto Rico (Dreaming of Puerto Rico), by great song writer Bobby Capó.  Composed in the 1950’s, it was considered to be the anthem of those who had to leave the Island looking for a better future in the United States. “I can’t hide the pride I feel of being Puerto Rican. And my thought, no matter where I go, moved to the Island, no matter where I go, to the blessed Island, my thoughts fly”. Every time I hear that song, and i bet that those of my readers that are Boricuas, feel the pride for your race and Island. And when you are outside it really hits you deeper in your soul. To those of you reading that are not Boricuas, or don’t speak Spanish, you will be able to feel nostalgic when you hear the song.

Lucecita
Lucecita

Moving from nostalgic songs to ones with better rhythm, we go to Amanecer Borincano (Boricua Dawn). Alberto Carrión, who started as a rock singer in the 60’s, wrote this song for his first album back in 1974. With this song Carrión describes a dawn in the Island and that we, as Boricuas, are part of it. We are sons of this God-blessed land. “I have Puertorican blood, I am the son of the palm tres, of the countryside and rivers, and of the sound of the coqui. Of valleys and coffee plantations, of sugar cane, sugar and pineapple. Of guava, mampostiales, of tembleque and mavi (these last three are Boricua delicacies)…” For me, the best performer of this unique song is Lucecita Benítez. Her voice is amazing and the feeling she carries in it makes this song one of a kind.

Have you ever heard a story of a family that moved to New York looking for something better. That was the situation of many Boricua families back in the 50’s and 60’s; looking for a better place to raise their children, or at least a better job than the ones in Puerto Rico. That feeling is stamped in Boricua en la Luna (Boricua in the Moon), a song based on the poems of Juan Antonio Corretjer performed by Roy Brown, born in USA from a north american father and a Boricua mother. The song tells the story of a man born in New York by his immigrant parents from Puerto Rico, and the way he was brought up to love the Island. “And this way I shout to the villain, I would be Boricua even if I was born in the Moon” That’s how deep the love for this Island goes.

La Universidad de la Salsa
La Universidad de la Salsa

Salsa…. simply the best music ever made, and when El Gran Combo is singing, is even better. The University of Salsa, name with which El Combo is recognized, has been around for 50 years. Song after song, rumba after rumba, the orchestra has made a lot of us dance and do the Jala Jala. One of their songs, Patria, describes in a great rhythm (unique to El Gran Combo) what Puerto Rico is. “A blue midnight, a silver dawn, a gold morning, that is my Island”, starts the great song released in the 80’s to the voice of Charlie Aponte.

Preciosa
Preciosa

And one of the best performances I have ever heard comes from a guy who was not born in this side of Puerto Rico, but in it’s extension: New York. The song Preciosa, written in 1937 by the great Rafael Hernández, is the song of Puerto Rico. Is a song that explains the beauties of the Island, and performed by Marc Anthony gives a greater meaning to the definition of Puerto Rican. “Beautiful call you the waves of the sea that bathes you. Beautiful for being an enchantment, for being an Eden… Beautiful, beautiful call you the sons of freedom”.

Songs that makes us proud to be born and raised in this Island, and even if born outside, Boricuas carry that pride in their blood. We sing, we dance, we enjoy being who we are and we will pass that pride to generations to come. Here are other songs that you will love and that show the love we feel for the Island. Verde Luz, La Perla, and if you want to know what Patria means, listen to this one, from our adoptive son Rubén Blades: Patria – Rubén Blades. If there are any other songs you may know about, let me know. Until next time, cójanlo suave!