Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tunes for Tuesday; Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize #2

While the ancient Greeks had their muses to inspire their artistic expressions, a clever Colombian composer was more concerned with what a particular muse was wearing: a red skirt. Thus was born the song which I have chosen for today’s Songs-Most-Colombians-Will-Recognize, an integral part of Colombian musical folklore:

La Pollera Colorá. By Wilson Choperena.

Turns out that a “pollera” is a ruffly colorful skirt. “Colorá” is the costeño way of saying the word “colorada” which means colorful or red. In singing about her skirt, he is really singing about Soledad, the girl who was wearing the skirt. The song is a traditional (some will say THE traditional) Colombian Cumbia, and dates back to the Golden Years of the genre, the 1940s to the 1960s.


The man mused by the skirt is Wilson Choperena, who was born in Plato, Magdalena on Christmas day, 1923. As with many other artistic masters, the place and timing of his birth seem premonitory of his future occupation. Plato is one of the small towns along the lower Magdalena River, which together with El Banco, Tamalameque, and the general area around Mompox (founded in 1537 by Conquistador Alonso de Heredia), claim to be the birth place of Cumbia. Also, it is just fitting that Wilson would be born on Christmas, party time in Colombia.


It seems to me that every musical group in Colombia has performed its own version or arrangement of this song. But here’s a great video of another Colombian institution, the Lucho Bermudez Band, interpreting the closest thing I’ve heard to the original Pollera Colorá:




Here’s a more updated version by





And this one that shows more of the culture surrounding the song:

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