Tuesday, May 17, 2011
TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- Si Dios Fuera Negro
It is Afro-Colombian week, and when it comes to music (especially Afro-Caribbean music), not being able to claim a little bit of African ancestry could be a real let down. My geneticist friends will advise me not to fret: deep inside and way in the past, we are all Africans. And they are right. I am short a few pieces of evidence, (besides the thick, black, everywhere body hair), to be able to prove that my ancestors are North Africans. Yep, the Moors who invaded Southern Spain centuries ago. But, claiming Sub-Saharan roots would be close to impossible.
As I have said here before, Colombian music owes a great deal to African immigrants. The most popular rhythms that unite Colombians are sprinkled with African music -- Black African music. Some of Colombia's greatest musical artists are also black - from Joe Arroyo, Wilson Manyoma, and Piper Pimienta, to Choc Quib Town and Profetas. Their accomplishments in Colombia are remarkable especially considering that even in the high plateaus of the Andes mountains, people with little in common with the Afro-Caribbean cultures, play and dance to this music at any celebration.
Unfortunately, in Colombia as in many other places, admiration hasn't always been the most widespread feeling towards Afro-descendants. Which brings us to today's song:
Si Dios Fuera Negro by Roberto Angleró.
Angleró was born in Puerto Rico. During the late 60s and early 70s, he composed Salsa music including many songs for the famous Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. I am not sure who sings this particular version. Some attribute this performance to Ruben Blades, and it does sound like him. But others think it is Angleró singing himself.
Either way, the song is a tongue in cheek riddle about how different the world would be if every one -the President, the Governor, the Lawyer, the Doctor, Snow White, the Mona Lisa, the Pope, the Angels, the flowers, and even Cotton- were black. The question posed in the song's title, is answered by ". . .it would be our race who would be in charge!"
A great commentary on race relations in the Carribbean world during the 60s and 70s -- and well, today.