Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dichosa Habana, not to be confused with "Iyamba beró"

Readers of this site may be familiar with the rumba known as "Guaguancó Callejero," or "Dichosa Habana," by Ignacio Piñeiro, most likely from El Goyo's definitive version on Rapsodia Rumbera. (By the way, this modern classic seems to have gone out of print - does anyone know of an online shop that stocks it?)

El Goyo's rendition is a perfect example of the modern style of rumba known as guarapachangueo. But as you might expect from a song attributed to Ignacio Piñeiro, "Dichosa Habana" has very old roots: it was first recorded back in the 20's as a "clave ñañiga." A friend recently sent me a rare transfer of this song from the 78 rpm disc, and there are some curious differences between the two versions which I will highlight here.

First, take a listen to El Goyo's version:

The lyrics, as El Goyo sings them (or as best as I can tell—if anyone can clarify, feel free), are as follows:

(UPDATE: Thanks to Patrício for submitting the following corrected lyrics:)

O ño ño ño, o ño ño ño, o ño ño ño...

A wá fu mi Elese o iyesá
A wá fu mi Elese o iyesá
Agó agó agó agó agó agó
Elegguá agó Lona
Agó agó agó
Elegguá agó Lona

Dichosa Habana que confunde a la gente
Son muchos los intendentes
que viven a la campana
El que menos tú pienses
Se juró Abakuá
El que está en la levita
entona un guaguancó
Y llama(n) al Iyamba
de los Nkomo sonoros
Como baila el Obonekue
En harmonioso compás

I was always curious about what exactly inspired this song, with its strange lyrics:

Confounded Habana
That confuses people!
There are so many intendentes
Who live by the bell
The least one you would think
Is surely an Abakuá
The one in the suit
Will sing a guaguancó
And calls the Iyamba (Iyamba = high Abakuá priest)
of the sonorous Nkomo (Nkomo = Abakuá drum)
How the Obonekue dances
In a harmonious rhythm

The song was also recorded big-band style in 1952 by Senén Suarez, with essentially the same lyrics.

I first learned of the even earlier version of this song from Abakuá scholar Ivor Miller. In his article "A Secret Society Goes Public: The Relationship Between Abakuá and Cuban Popular Culture" (African Studies Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp 161-88), Miller writes:

"[Ignacio] Piñeiro not only recorded Abakuá chants commercially but also wrote lyrics about a little known aspect of the brotherhood: the white males of elite society who became Abakuá members from the 1860's onward...Piñeiro's "Iyamba bero" (ca.1925-28) refers to the local politicians and businessmen he met in the course of playing music for their private parties."

Now listen to this version by Juan de la Cruz Izanaga, Bienvenido León and Alberto Villalón (which Cristóbal Díaz Ayala dates to October 1927):

Besides the obvious melodic differences, the lyrics to this earlier version are somewhat different:

Dichosa Habana
Que confunde a la gente
El mas malo es decente
y vive a la campana
el que menos Ud. piense
es un puro Abakuá
que suelta la levita
y toca el bonkó
y llamando al Iyamba Beró
entona sonoro
como regio Obanékue
un hamonioso compás.

(Miller's translation:)

Lucky Havana
that confounds people
the worst one is decent
and lives the easy life
whom you least suspect
is a pure Abakuá
who takes off his suit
and plays the bonkó
and calling the Iyamba Beró
intones sonorously
like a regal Obonékue
a harmonious rhythm

So the later guaguancó versions have extended the idea of whites, or members of the "suit-wearing" classes, participating in tradionally afro-cuban activites to include not only Abakuá members but also rumberos.

Also added to the guaguancó version is the "O ño ño ño..." and the Lucumí "Awa fumi alansa oyansa" intro sections. These are included in the 1952 version. To me this raises the question if these parts might have a been more-or-less standard rumba intro, then grafted onto the "Iyamba beró" song.

On the other hand, the melodic differences make me wonder if this could have been a rumba first, to which Piñeiro merely added the melody? (There is also a treatment of this section, as well as a brief "Dichosa Habana" verse as a columbia, recorded in the 90's by Cutumba on the "Real Rumba" CD, making it one of those rare songs that crosses between columbia and guaguancó.) It would be interesting to ask El Goyo where he learned this song from to see if he could shed any light on this.


Anonymous said...

Hey guarachon, wouldn't it be OBONEKUE as opposed to OMONEKUE?

I know the rumba lyrics pdf have it as omonekue, but isn't the obonekue the one that dances in this obviously abakua influenced number?

Anonymous said...

i kept reading and saw how the other version does mention obonekue...maybe Goyo's version was a mis interpretation?

Anonymous said...

isnt goyo dead?

i think he passed a while ago actually

Barry said...

Hi Raphlo

I think ( I *hope*) you are confusing El Goyo, Gregorio Hernández, the singer, with "Goyito" Gregorio Díaz Alfonso, of Los Muñequitos. He passed away back in 1996.

Confusing I know, and I am not always careful to put the "El" in front of one or the " -ito" after the other.

Be sure to get "El" Goyo's latest CD "La rumba es cubana."

Apparently he is also working on a tribute to Tío Tom, I am looking forward to that one.

Barry said...

You are right about that Ralplo, it should be obonekue, the error has been corrected, thanks for catching that.

Anonymous said...

oh man...that makes so much sense in pictures they looked different and i couldn't tell why i thought it was the same el Goyo Diaz, was the tumbador with munequitos, the one whose innovations influenced everyone's...did Goyo Hernandez play with los munequitos too? damn

Barry said...

No, he is from Havana. Click on the link above for El Goyo's bio. He was with Conjunto Folklorico Nacional very early.

Anonymous said...

Hola, puedo aportar un poco de información sobre este tema "Guaguancó Callejero"

Este tema lo armaron Senén Suárez y Laito Sureda, la primera parte es de ellos dos y la segunda estrofa es de Ignacio Piñeiro, se lo adjudicaron completamente el tema al maestro Ignacio por llevar letra suya.
Dejo aquí la letra original, que canta Laito Sureda en el "Conjunto de Senén Suarez"

Guaguancó callejero

Oyonyonyo oyonyonyo oyonyonyo
Oyonyonyo oyonyonyo oyonyonyo
Larara……. aeeeeeee

A la fu mi elegua oyensa,
a la fu mi elegua oyensa
A la fu mi elegua oyenza

Ango ango ango ango Elena ochulona
Ango ango ango ango Elena ochulona

Larara aeeeeeeeee

Dichosa Habana que confunde a la gente
Dichosa Habana que confunde a la gente
El más malo entendente se vive a la campana
El que meno tu piensa es puro Ayacuá
El que cala lebita y toca guaguancó
Y llamando al illanba bero enconosonoro
Como bello habaneco un armonioso compás


Cuanto tiene cuanto vale

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