In my last posting I outlined a plan for teaching yourself Spanish. One of the best ways is to listen to songs, over and over, until you have them almost memorized. If you drive a lot you can put in many pleasurable hours listening to songs in Spanish. Your Spanish will improve and traffic will no longer put your teeth on edge. Which songs work best? I would suggest that you focus on the best songs available, those with a beautiful melody and meaningful words. These are the criteria that guided my choice when I wrote Love Songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and Learning. All twenty-five songs have something interesting to say about love. Most of them are about male-female love but one, Granada, is about love for a far-off city. (For details see my website: www.godwinbooks.com)
Here is a brief description of the first thirteen songs in Love songs in Spanish.
Song one, Solamente una vez contends that you have only one great love in life and when you find it you seem to hear joyful church bells ringing out all over town.
Song two, Amor, Amor, claims that love comes from God and the soul. Unlike North American love songs, love songs in Spanish are often informed by Christian ideas and images.
Song three, Noche de Ronda reveals a man on a balcony looking up at the moon doing its rounds and wondering if the lady who just left him is also doing her rounds—of the night clubs, etc. He has some questions that he would like the moon to answer.
Song four, Quizás? Quizás? is about a lover who is stuck on a girl who is maddeningly non- committal. She drives him bonkers with her (quizas’s) i.e. maybe’s.
Song five, Cielito Lindo is a warning to men: if you leave the nest and try to return years later don’t be surprised if it is occupied by another man. The composer of this lovely song is seldom mentioned. His name is Quirino Mendoza y Cortes (1859-1957) and I have enclosed a photo of him in my book. (This is but one of dozens of photos I have used.)
Song six, Angelitos Negros, asks a traditional painter why he puts only white angels on his canvases. Why did you forget the black angels, you bigot! A good movie starring Mexican singing idol Pedro Infante was inspired by this song.
Song seven, Siboney, is about a lover extolling his loved one and pleading with her to join him in his little grass cabana somewhere on an isolated beach in Cuba.
Song eight, Cucurrucucu, Paloma, on the surface seems to be about a dove who takes to drink and then dies from the sorrow of loving his partner. If you hear a dove singing sadly in his little birdhouse early in the morning chances are it is really the soul of this bereaved dove still calling out for his loved one to return.
Song nine, Historia de un amor, finds a lover full of despair at losing his loved one. It was she who gave light to his life by bringing him love and passion. He wonders why God made him love her—was it to make him suffer?
Song ten, Sabor a mi, celebrates the permanence of true love. Even though the lovers may part they loved each other so deeply that their souls melded and no matter what happens they will keep forever the memory of each other’s ‘flavor’ or essence in their memory. The spiritual and sexual are nicely blended in this remarkably beautiful song.
Song eleven, Caminito, (a tango) is based on the true story of an Argentinian who returns to the little pathway in the wilds where he once walked with the young woman he was courting. She has gone, probably forever, and he has come to say goodbye and maybe even end his life. He confides in the pathway, saying, “I have come here for the last time, I have come to tell of my pain. (…) I would like to fall at your side and may time kill both of us.”
Song twelve, Miraron llorar a este hombre (a ‘ranchera’) shows a man getting drenched by rain on a street corner one evening and brooding over a woman. He goes into a cantina and gets very sloshed. The wine increases his suffering, suffering makes him burst into tears and tears cause him to say her name. Enraged, he would like to “arrancar” (tear) her by the roots out of his soul. The clients of the cantina look at him in amazement: ‘Mararon llorar a este hombre.” (They watched this man cry.) Some songs in Spanish explore emotions which are seldom, if ever, mentioned in North American popular songs.
Song thirteen, Piel Canela, is about a lover who speculates on how brokenhearted he would be if ever he were to lose his girl. She is everything to him, and not just dark eyes and cinnamon colored skin (“ojos negros, piel canela”). Were he to lose her his sadness would be greater than if the stars disappeared, the rainbow lost its colors or the flowers lost their scent. Many of these songs make reference to the flora and fauna of the tropics.
In my next blog I will write about the other twelve songs in my book, Love songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and Learning.