Song Lyric Sunday – La Bamba

Jim Adams @ A Unique Title for Me is the epic host of “Song Lyric Sunday”. This week he offers the temperature-related prompts of Cool/Freeze/Heat/Melt.  

Continuing with my theme on the beautiful Mexican state of Veracruz, I am joining Jim’s challenge with “La Bamba”, the most famous example of the region’s musical style of el son jarocho, which combines Spanish, indigenous, and African/Caribbean musical elements. A son jarocho is typically played on harps, along with the jarana jarochaa type of small guitar traditionally strung with 8 strings in 5 courses, and the requinto jarocho, another guitar instrument that may have four or five strings, and is played with a pick.  In Veracruz, “La Bamba” is an emblematic song for zapateado, a type of dance performed on a wooden platform, which adds a percussion element to the rhythm of the music by the striking of the dancers’ shoes on the wood.  In traditional wedding parties, the bride and groom would dance to this son jarocho, including an element in which a long ribbon is placed on the dancing floor; the couple must tie the ribbon into a bow, exclusively with their feet, before the music ends, and the dance concludes with the couple proudly displaying the completed bow, a symbol of their union.  This dance is now performed at festivals and by folk dance companies, which for the most part preserve the pristine white of the wedding garments as the  colour of choice for their dancing costumes.  A video that definitely got my attention was from the 2019 annual Guinness Record challenge for “Most dancers performing “La Bamba” at unison”, in Xalapa, the capital city of Veracruz; it is true candy not only for the eyes, but for the ears, as well.  The arrangement is traditional, with harps, jaranas and requintos, as well as the “zapateado” from more than 2,400 dancers, who are not only skillfully dancing, but also having fun, smiling to the audience, and tying long red ribbons into neat bows! 

And here is another example of the dance, with just one couple, so the tying the bow is not missed:

In a live performance of “La Bamba”, the main singer is more of a “caller”, and the lyrics to the song may vary to a great extent, as the caller will often improvise verses, according to the audience, current news, or type of event.  Ritchie Valens gave the song a Rock’n’Roll twist, making it famous in the US in the 1950s; he tried to respect the Mexican origin choosing the two main stanzas of the song, one about the dance, and the other with a nautical theme, which honours the coastal state of Veracruz (marked in red on the map at the top of this post.)  Although those two stanzas do not include Jim’s temperature prompt words, I believe that “La Bamba” definitely qualifies for the theme, since it is a folk song originated in the tropical state of Veracruz, and the impromptu verses sung by callers have been known to heat up the mood in the room, melt hearts, freeze the audience in place, or simply, be cool.  In 1987, the group “Los Lobos” also recorded “La Bamba” with the same stanzas (click here for the video) for the soundtrack of the movie also entitled “La Bamba”, inspired by Ritchie Valens’ short life and tragic death:

La Bamba (lyrics from traditional son jarocho)

Para bailar La Bamba
Para bailar La Bamba
Se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mí, para tí, ay arriba, ay arriba
Ay arriba y arriba
Por tí seré, por tí seré, por tí seré
Yo no soy marinero
Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán
Soy capitán, soy capitán
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba,
Para bailar La Bamba
Para bailar La Bamba
Se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mí, para tí, ay arriba, ay arriba

18 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday – La Bamba

  1. That was very interesting, and I thank you for having the lyrics for it. With my duolingo, I can translate most of what the words are. So cool on the Guinness Book of Records.

    Like

    1. Oh good, I didn’t think of translating since the arrangement for the US was in Spanish, but yes, Duolingo or Google translator would do; those are very simple lyrics. I am glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi again, Eilene! I just added another video to the post, with a close-up of the couple’s feet while tying the ribbon; it looks easy, but then again, it has to be done in a short period and in front of an audience, so it is still a neat trick indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

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