Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tunes for Tuesday: Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize #1

One thing has to be clear: there isn't a single type of music which represents ALL of Colombia. The country is divided into 5 or 6 geographical regions ("las Regiones Naturales"-- we call them), each one with a very distinct culture and, therefore, music.

However, there is no doubt that the music from the Caribbean region with its African and Cuban influences plays a prominent role in unifying the musical taste in Colombia. Also because these Caribbean rhythms have been around for so long, their influence spans several generations and allows for some generalizations about what old and young might recognize as Colombian, as you will see.

Now, and not a moment too soon, here's my pick for today's Tuesday Tunes: Subcategory -- Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize:

El Preso. By Fruko y Sus Tesos.


The song was released in 1975 during what I consider to be the Golden Years of Salsa in Colombia and the World. Fruko is the artistic name of the band’s founder Ernesto Estrada. “Tesos” is Costeno for “tieso”, which taken literally would mean “hard” or “tough”. Taken in the context of Colombian Caribbean culture though, the tesos would be guys who are really good at what they do. (BTW, people from the interior i.e. Bogota, who consider themselves better spoken, will say “duro” instead of “tieso”. Hence, in Bogota someone good at something is “un duro”) Anyway, these guys are really good.

El Preso is sung by Wilson Saoko Manyoma. I am pretty sure the guy’s name really is Wilson, but either Saoko or Manyoma has got to be a nickname.

Representative of Fruko's brand of Salsa, El Preso means “The Prisoner”. I guess at some point during the Seventies, Colombian trend setters made it cool to say they'd been in prison. And you thought this was unique among modern gangsta rappers. Now before you start thinking that Colombians started prison life glorification, the song really wasn't about being prison-grade bad. It has more to do with the most pervasive of feelings among Colombians: melancholy. The guy's broke, alone, tired, in prison, and who does he miss? His mommy, of course.

Lyrics aside, what makes this a remarkable song is Manyoma’s awesome voice over the piano driven percussion background. This became Fruko’s signature rhythm. A formula that was used to concoct several hits which, in turn, would propel them to stardom in Colombia and abroad (i.e. immigrants who liked Salsa abroad).

The video link above is great for getting to know the song and the singer. Not great for learning how to dance to it. He reminds me of myself trying to dance. This is a fast song that requires practice or at least some Zumba lessons before attempting it at the club in front of people.

1 comment:

Notorious MLE said...

Excellent. I agree about the 70s being the golden age for Salsa although I think with Sonora Carruseles and Grupo Gale we are totally in a renaissance.