Archive for the 'Boleros y Baladas' Category

La Guitarra Ayacuchana

Here on Super Sonido we tend to focus on cumbia and the more costal/tropical sounds from Latin America but in this post I want to shine some light on music from the Andes of Peru, specifically the region my family is from, Ayacucho.

Located in the central province of Huamanga is the capital city of Ayacucho. The city is named after the historical Battle of Ayacucho, fought during the Peruvian war of independence from Spain. Upon seeing so many casualties on the battlefield, locals called the area Ayakuchu, aya meaning “dead” and kuchu meaning “corner” in the Quechua language. An appropriate moniker considering it later became the epicenter of the Maoist uprising in the 80’s, led by the rebel group Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path), an organization that gripped the country for over 20 years.

Since the times of the Spanish conquest, death and sadness have been common themes in this region -and nothing reflects this more than the melancholic rythm of la guitarra Ayacuchana. A guitar style so unique, that it is rarely heard in other parts of Peru , much less outside of the country.

The history of music from Ayacucho would be difficult to cover in one single blog post. It would probably require it’s own separate blog entirely. However, I wanted the opportunity to post some of my own personal videos and tracks – something that I hope will give the listening audience some idea of how this style of music fits into the larger picture of Peruvian popular culture. Perhaps illustrating how prominent the guitar is in Peruvian music, as reflected later in musical genres like Chicha and Cumbia Peruana. In Ayacucho the guitar became the instrument that empitomized that region’s sound. It achieved classical status while reflecting it’s indigenous melodic roots, something that tends to allude other instruments and styles such as Chicha and Cumbia, which are commonly looked down on as low class music.

Included in this post are videos that I shot back in 2001 in Huancayo, Peru . They feature my friend and mentor Rudi Felices playing various compositions, one of which he composed. During the war in the 80’s, Rudi was lucky to escape from Ayacucho with his life, he was shot in the arm as he jumped from rooftop to rooftop, escaping the city in the middle of the night. He now lives in Huancayo and works as a math teacher. In the second video clip he goes into some of the history behind one of the classic Ayacuchano songs he refers to as Temple el Diablo, also known as Helme. I have also included an MP3 version* played by the undisputed king of the guitarra Ayacuchana Raul Garcia Zarate. As the story goes, the song was written by a guy named Helme, who after finding his woman with another man, killed them both in a fit of rage and ate their hearts. In his depression, he called upon a famous quenista (flute player) and asks him to teach him a type of playing called Manchay Puito, which is the saddest music known to man; Sadder even than another style called “Yaravi”. He then began to play this music as punishment for the crime he had committed. It’s widely believed that if you play this style of music long enough it will drive you to suicide. ENJOY!!!!

– Dj Lengua

1. Raul Garcia Zarate: Helme *

2. Lira Paucina: El Solitario

3. Florencio Coronado: Arascasca

Balada Fuzz con Rodolfo

I’m not sure if these 45’s belong to Colombian crooner Rodolfo Aicardi or if there is some other ballad singer on the Discos Fuentes label solely named Rodolfo. If I had to put some money on it, I’d go with the former guess rather than the latter.

According to a few biographies I’ve read, Aicardi has been associated with various musical genres within his 40+ singing career: from Cumbia, Cumbión, Merengue, Paseo, Balada, Balada-Rock, Balada-Ranchera, Plena, Funk, Jala Jala, Paseaito, Bolero, Saltarín, Guajira, Porro, Salsa, Porro, Zamba, Ranchera, Cumbia Andina, Maestranza, Puya, Guaracha, Tamborera – to name a few.

The irony was that these songs presented below were probably his least popular songs in South America. Like the Peruvian band Las Pasteles Verdes or Argentinian singer Leo Dan – Rodolfo found a much larger audience for his over-the-top fuzzed out lyrical romanticism in Mexico of all places.

At any rate, some truly incredible songs. Almost has that now-sound/James Bond thing going on – especially with the song Incertidumbre (uncertainty), which is a cover song of a much older bolero standard. Great stuff for the beat heads. Enjoy!

1. Rodolfo: Incertidumbre

2. Rodolfo: Voy A Hablarte Francamente

3. Rodolfo: Has Regresado Viejo Amigo

4. Rodolfo: Buscando Amor

Gal Costa: 1968 to 1974

The arrival of Tropicália on the Brazilian music scene began in 1968 with the seminal collaboration album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis. Although this new genre was also embraced by the visual arts community, it was largely seen as a musically driven movement. The key to the Tropicália manifesto was antropofagia, or the cultural cannibalism of all societies. Essentially it was the digestion of all other influences, from all other genres, in order to create something totally new.

Musically it consisted of a fusion between regional Brazilian and American/British psychedelic rock. Also, the experimentation with studio production was another key element . Take the first song Mamãe, Coragem, which I couldn’t record on its own. Most tracks on the Tropicália album segway directly into each other – the whole album is on some Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club trip.

Please know that Brazil was experiencing their third military dictatorship at the time, which lasted from 1964 to 1984. So a new musical movement that rejected most conventions could only be deemed as politically engaging or a form of activism, to say the least. And the Tropicalismo movement pretty much ended with founders Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil being forced into exile in 1971.

It is ironic to think that even though Gal Costa was a big part of the Tropicália movement, she never wrote any of her own songs. Most of her music was composed either by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, or both. While the two were in exile, it’s as if Gal became their default artist in their absence.  However, her strength really lies in the way she expressed herself through other composer’s music and lyrics. Gal has the ability to take any genre and turn it into her own. She really captured the movement’s dense lyricism with her voice. Her singing appears unorthodox at times, with unusual time structures, always creating a thin line between happiness and sadness. It’s in my opinion that she is probably has one of the most unusual, original and beautiful female singing voices I’ve ever heard.

Presented here are a few tracks from each album in chronological order. I tried to select songs from multiple genres as an example of what was going on with the movement at the time. I am missing a few of her late 70’s records, which I’ve partially heard and appear to be impressive as well. If you like what you hear, don’t hesitate to pick any album up for yourselves, most songs on the albums given are amazing from beginning to end.  On a side note, popular Forró musician/singer Dominguinhos plays accordion on a few of her records. Forró is a popular regional music from the Northeast of Brazil. It’s almost like Zydeco. I find it amazing that he played and toured with Gal for many years, really a reflection on the influence, longevity and all-inclusive nature of the Tropicalismo movement. Peep the funky track Relance. Enjoy!

1. Gal Costa: Mamãe Coragem + Gal/Caetano/Gil/Os Mutantes: Batmacumba

2. Gal Costa w/ Gilberto Gil: Sebastiana

3. Gal Costa: Vou Recomecar

4. Gal Costa: Tuareg

5. Gal Costa: Com Medo, Com Pedro

6. Gal Costa: Lingua Do P

7. Gal Costa: Acauã

8. Gal Costa: Fruta Gogóia

9. Gal Costa: Presente Cotidiano

10. Gal Costa: Relance

11. Gal Costa: Da Maior Importancia

12. Gal Costa: Pontos De Luz

13. Gal Costa: Barato Total

14. Lua, Lua, Lua, Lua

15. Gal Costa: Flor Do Cerrado


Nelson Ned: El Enano Con Voz Gigante

Brazilian singer and composer Nelson Ned sort of carved out a niche in the 60’s and 70’s by singing sentimental ballads in both Spanish and Portuguese. Almost like the Brazilian Roberto Carlos did. However, his songs of suffering and sentimentality were probably taken even more seriously since he was so small in stature, him being a midget of course. During that era he gained international popularity, most notably in Mexico and Europe. I even recall him singing on Mexican television in the 70’s and 80’s.   

Later, Nelson Ned converted to Christianity in the 90’s (a lot of singers that crawled out of the 70’s seemed to have done that for some reason or another) and currently sings only Evangelical songs. I selected the song “No Digas No” (don’t say no), which is currently my favorite. The compilation album it comes from has no cover, so I just selected a photo from another album. Enjoy!

1. Nelson Ned: No Digas No

Day 21: Los Ángeles Negros

The Chilean band Los Angeles Negros (the black angles) probably wouldn’t be so familiar to North American ears if it wasn’t for the sample used off the Beastie Boys “Hello Nasty” album. But who can blame them for copping a beat like “El Rey Y Yo” (The King and I). Psychedelic bolero break-beats? Anyway, long before the any popularity was garnered from that Beastie Boys record, Los Angeles Negros where the most popular bolero groups of their era. 

Los Angeles Negros have almost a similar biography as Los Pasteles Verdes (see my earlier post). Both bolero style groups, founded after winning a talent show, becoming internationally famous, and then moving partially to Mexico. On a side note, keep in mind that Mexico is the most populous Latin American country (besides Brazil). So if a band makes it big, you find a lot of Caribbean and South American acts ending up there. There is almost like a cultural diaspora in Mexico City. It’s a bigger market, close to the United States, a recording/publishing mecca, and it is relatively stable to other Latin American countries, or was at the time.

Nevertheless, I threw some great break-beat sounding boleros, along with their most popular mega hit “Y Volvere” (and you will return). Check out predecessors Julio Jaramillo (Ecuador) or Carlos Gardel (Argentina). South America has had a long history of the romantic bolero and over the top lyricism. Enjoy!

1. Los Angeles Negros: Y Volvere

2. Los Angeles Negros: A Tu Recuerdo

3. Los Angeles Negros: Amor Por Ti

4. Los Angeles Negros: Con Todo Mi Amor



Day 17: La Lupe

I can’t think of one Latin female singer that took in so much and put so much out with her heart, singing, and energy than the Cuban born Guadalupe Victoria Yolí Raymond, aka La Lupe.

From exile, to fame, to drug addition, heartbreak, a waning career with Fania, to Santeria, and to an eventual life as a born-again Christian. This complex and often controversial history that La Lupe had will always be reflected in the tone of her singing voice. PBS did a documentary bio-pick of her few years back which I recommend watching. Also, peep my other post Day 1: Yeh-Yeh,  La Lupe does backing vocals for Mongo Santamaria, who actually discovered her in 1962 after being exiled to the United States from Cuba.

The song Puedes Decir Di Mi (you can say whatever you want about me) should have been in a James Bond movie. In fact, whenever I play this at clubs I always have at least one person asking me who the singer is. It’s her powerful, infectious voice that really can capture one. You don’t even need to know Spanish to understand where this lady has been and what she is trying to say. Tossed in the B side, which is just as powerful. Enjoy!

1. La Lupe: Puedes Decir De Mi

2. La Lupe: Tan Lejos Y Sin Embargo Te Quiero

Day 14: Son Tropical Yumuri de Juan Torres

 I suffer because I love you.

Happy Valentines Day!

1. Son Tropical Yumuri de Juan Torres: Sufro Porque Te Quiero