Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"Son Rumbe'ao" and "Changó ta vení"

A fascinating characteristic of rumba is that songs of many different styles can easily be arranged as a guaguancó. Mexican Rancheras, American Pop tunes, Argentine Tangos, Brazilan Sambas, even Peruvian Waltzes have all been turned into great rumbas.

Yet I'm still always a bit surprised when I find out that a song I normally think of as a son or a mambo actually started out as guaguancó.

When the son craze swept Havana in the 1920s, many rumberos began joining sextetos where they could hope to get a steady income from playing music.

Maria Teresa Linares has written that as the demand for son recordings and competition from other son groups began increasing, the soneros were searching for new songs and naturally the rumberos began adapting the rumbas they knew into son arrangements.

Ned Sublette and Cristobal Diaz Ayala once had a conversation (here) about what happened next:

NS: (...) When the son arrived in Havana, I say it became a son "rumbeao," a rumba-ized son. Coming to Havana, it takes on a different character. The people who play bongó are the same people who play rumba, who play batá. They also play arará, maybe. I say that, although they didn't record the rumba of the solar [tenement] at that time, if you want to know how it sounded, listen to the son records. And although they didn't record the coros de clave, if you want to know how they sounded, it's there. You know that what always caught my attention about the Septeto Habanero is -- those records are weird! They sound strange!

CDA: It's an acquired taste, the Habanero. What you're saying is true. It all comes together in the emblematic figure of Ignacio Piñeiro, who gets rid of the four monotonous verses of the original son and replaces them with décima; who mixes the son with the guajiro style, et cetera. And also Ignacio Piñeiro was Abakuá, Ignacio Piñeiro was in the coros de clave. That is, the son kept evolving.

There are many examples in old son recordings of songs that are actually rumbas. (There are quite a few very interesting ones on the Tumbao CD of María Teresa Linares and Rafael Zequeira, "El Legendario Duo De La Trova Cubana: Grabaciones Historicas 1916-1924.")

Here we have a nice versión of the classic "Changó ta vení" by Orquesta Riverside. There's also the added bonus of the great Gonzalo Asencio, "Tío Tom" introducing his composition, which is normally attributed to Justi Barreto, another great rumbero and prolific composer.

Now here's El Goyo singing "Changó ta vení" as a traditional guaguancó. He includes an extra verse I hadn't heard before:

E, Changó ta vení
Changó ta vení
Changó ta vení

Ya empezó el bembé
Oye la tambó ta soná
Ya empezó el bembé
Oye la tambó va soná

Si Sarabanda mayombe
mundo va acabá
Con un machete en la mano
tierra va a temblar

E, a

Changó ta vení
Changó ta vení
Changó ta vení

Coro: Sarabanda Changó ta vení