Music Trekking: The History of La Bamba

Let’s Stomp and Shake to… La Bamba!

Who would think that a humble little folksong from the region of Vera Cruz, Mexico would grow up to be a best-loved song all over the world – and even get itself listed as # 345 in Rolling Stone’s Magazine’s List of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Such is the impressive history of a song called “La Bamba”.

Although La Bamba has been recorded by artists such as Harry Belafonte, Los Lobos and even by a Greek Musician named Tzimis Panousis, most people are familiar with the version recorded by Richie Valens in 1958. Surprisingly, although Valens was proud of his Mexican heritage, he spoke no Spanish and had to go to his aunt, Ernestine Reyes, to learn the lyrics of this song phonetically. Other musicians in the band helped add a rock and roll edge to the song and it became a chart-topping success. Years later, both Valens and the song were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for this contribution to popular culture.

But what is “La Bamba”? The name refers to a dance. Most foklorists guess that it comes from the Spanish verb “bambolear” which can be translated to “to shake” or “to stomp,” a perfect title for an active upbeat dance that sometimes got faster and faster as it went on. What about the words? That’s a bit tricky because there is no definitive set of lyrics since many of the verses were improvised. The tune and the chorus were well known in Mexico – especially in Vera Cruz. However, clever singers or deejays would add new verses in order to charm or amuse the crowd. They might sing about how silly your uncle looks in his flowered shirt of how beautiful a young lady appeared as she stepped into the room. Although there are lots of verses, the most popular ones can be heard in most modern versions of the song.

“Yo no soy marinero/I am not a sailor” is one or the verses everyone recognizes. In Spanish, the singer is telling everyone that he is not a sailor – he’s the captain, a verse that would make sense in that area of Mexico known for it’s fishing. Can you make up your own silly or funny verses to this song – of course! If you speak Spanish, add a line or two in that language. If you speak English or another language, try your hand at it as well! The melody is addictive and you may just create the next great version of this popular song.

In my version of La Bamba, I chose to stick with the verses I had heard most often. You can check it out here:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

Music Trekking: Down By the Ocean

Wild and Free

Are you lucky enough to go on vacation to the seashore this summer? If you have you’ve probably noticed some wonderful creatures that live in and around the seas like crabs, starfish, conch shells, jellyfish, or maybe even a dolphin jumping through the waves.

Have you ever thought about how important it is to keep the oceans clean so all these amazing creatures can be a part of our lives? That was exactly what I was thinking when I wrote this song – Wild And Free. My family and I had just traveled to Florida and visited a sanctuary for manatees. This unique place had an area where you could walk down a flight of stairs and observe inside the manatees swimming lagoon. You could see them up close and personal, face-to-hairy face! The staff at the sanctuary talked to us about dangers to manatees in the wild and what people could do to learn more about them and to protect them. I was inspired and I wrote this song. Because so many different people also fall in love with dolphins and whales – I gave them their own verses, too!

You might have noticed that the tune to this song is another song about an ocean – “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.” Because I’m a folksinger, I often like to recycle classic melodies from folksongs and add my own words. If you want to try your hand at writing songs, you can do the same thing. Take any tune you recognize, pick a subject for the song and make up your own verses. Write about your friends, your family, or maybe even a visit to the ocean.

Who knows what good things your songs might inspire!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

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