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Viva Espana and Mexico

The current rebirth of interest in Latin-American dancemusic, rumba, samba, mambo salsa, and other neo-African variants, has its roots in the 1920s or evenearlier. During the first decades of the last century theArgentinian tango and its habanera hybrids had beenpopularised throughout Europe and by 1930 therecording and broadcasting industries were exploitingthe commercial possibilities of other dance rhythmsfrom other southern American countries, Brazil,Mexico and Cuba. In the United States parallelprocesses of evolution continued under the generalheading of 'commercial dance', first through the 'KingOf Kitsch' Xavier Cugat and Perez Prado and, later,with jazz and Afro, and, later even, reggae-overlap,successively, by Tito Puente, Machito, Charlie Parkerand, in the late 1980s, by 'Miami's Golden Girl' GloriaEstefan. From the early 1920s onwards Europe,however, and specifically Paris, saw a sophisticatinginflux of Latin musicians, in particular several Cubans,including Ernesto Lecuona (1896-1963) and DonMarino Barreto (1909-1997). In London, Lecuona set abenchmark by his first visit with his Cuban Boys (in1934), while Barreto subsequently established himselfin the British capital, to be followed by the part-Scots,part-black Venezuelan, Trinidad-born Edmundo Ros(born 1910), and the Scottish Roberto Inglez (aliasRobert Inglis, 1919-1978) and others.

As in other musical genres deriving in smaller orgreater part from folk-dance sources, it can often bedifficult to differentiate the authentically Latin from thespurious, or the truly traditional from the commercialcounterfeiting of Tin Pan Alley, however catchy thetune. Into the latter category we can, however, withconfidence place Chiquita Banana, a 1938 creation byLen Mackenzie, Garth Montgomery and bandleader BillWirges, by Maxwell-Wirges Publications, New York.

And while the ballad (cancion) Granada, published byPeer International Corporation, New York, in 1932, wasfeatured by vocalists as diverse as Mario Lanza andClaudio Villa, its indisputably mock-heroic semblanceconceals its genuinely Mexican origins. Its composerAgustin Lara (1900-1970), a native of Tlacotalpan,spent most of his working life in Mexico City.

Musically self-taught, he earned his living playing inMexican brothels and speakeasies, where theexperience of having his face slashed in a brawl with awoman reputedly inspired his 'paean to womanhood,Morucha', His other successes included Rosa, Tuspupila, Gotas de amor and, even more famously Mujer.

La raspa (literally either 'shrew' or 'scolding') maybe traceable to the early flamenco, El raspao, whereasunder its original title Jarabe tapatio, Mexican HatDance derives from a rhythm of Arabic origintraditionally performed by the inhabitants ofGuadalajara. This last was reportedly first danced in1790 at the Coliseo in Mexico City, but its earliestpublication copyright in Mexico dates from 1919 and itlater became even better known through a 1933 NewYork re-publication, in an arrangement by F. A.

Partichela. The earliest known printed version of Cielitolindo dates from 1919 and although no composer orlyricist were credited, its time-honoured refrain 'Ay, ay,ay, ay, canta y no llores' has a certain folksy ring to it.

In this context the musicologist Otto Meyer-Serra citesQuerino Mendoza y Cortez, who claimed authorshipwhen applying for copyright in 1929. Others,unspecified, pre-locate the tune, if not the words, to the1830s.

Although variously credited as a Mexican folk-songLa Cucaracha (literally 'cockroach beetle') dates backto about 1885, or possibly earlier. With its companionLa Valentina, it was one of two songs of the 1914-1915Revolution published simultaneously, in Mexico City,in 1916. Its title refers to 'La Cucaracha', a femaleprotagonist of the Mexican struggles, and indeed in1934 it was used as a theme-tune, billed as 'a fox-trot byHawley Ades [with] American Adaptation by Juan Y.

D'Lorah' and published by Irving Berlin, Inc., for thefilm Viva Villa (MGM, produced by Selznick and partlydirected by Howard Hawks and dubbed '1001 nights ofglorious romantic adventure', with a plot based on thelife of the revolutionary Pancho Villa, portrayed byWallace Beery). That same year another vocal versionappeared, with lyrics by Stanley Adams, by Edward B.

Marks & Co. and in 1935 one of many subsequenttreatments (words by Carl Field, for M. M. ColePublishing) made its first appearance in Chicago.

Although perhaps better known nowadays throughthe lyrics of the 1960 Solomon King updating SheWears My Ring, La golondrina was in its originalversion an inspired cancion de exilio, in style very muchthe companion of La paloma, which it predated byseveral years. It was the work of Narciso Serradell(1943-1910), a native of Alvarado, near Vera Cruz inMexico, who wrote it for a competition, in 1862.

Serradell was subsequently incarcerated forrevolutionary activities and published the song yearslater, to his own French lyrics, while working as ateacher, in exile in France. Later still it appeared in aSpanish translation by Francisco Martinez de la Sierra.

While most familiar to modern ears through the poprevivals of Ricky Valance, Los Paraguayos and others,La bamba (literally 'black, i.e. Afro-Caribbean,woman') is probably the most famous of all thehuapangos from the central Bajo and Gulf coastalregions of eastern Mexico which, originally scored forguitars harps and percussion, are heard to bestadvantage in and around Vera Cruz.

Not surprisingly three selections are included by theprolific Lecuona. A highly accomplished pianistcomposerwhose lighter output for film and radio tosome extent obscured his true stature, Ernest CasadoLecuona was a native of Guanabacoa, Cuba. Born into amusical background, the precocious Ernesto gave hisfirst recital at five, published his first composition ateleven and at seventeen graduated from the HavanaConservatorio Nacional, taking first prize and goldmedal. After making his New York solo debut as apianist-composer at the Aeolian Hall in 1914, heembarked on a career as a recitalist, continuingcompositional training with Joaquin Nin and, during theearly 1920s, with Maurice Ravel, in France. By thedecade's end he had 'gone commercial', however, and,with his famous Cuban Boys dance outfit, alternatingwhite tie and tails with gaucho attire, made tours ofEurope, Latin America and the United States.

The bulk of Lecuona's estimated four hundredcompositions feature \ 'white' peasant and Afro-Cubanrhythms" and of these, Malaguena (published as a pianosolo by Edward B. Marks Music Co., New York, in1929), his first international commercial song hit'Siboney' (1929; penned as "a tribute to the CaribbeanIndians") and La Comparsa (1934) are among the bestremembered.

Peter Dempsey"
Disc: 1
La Raspa
1 Mexican Hat Dance
2 Malaguena
3 Cielito Lindo
4 La Virgen de las Macarenas
5 Chiquita Banana
6 El sol que tu eres
7 La Cucaracha
8 La Golondrina
9 Granada
10 Jesusita en Chihuahua
11 Guadalajara
12 Chiapanecas
13 La Bamba
14 La Comparsa
15 Gitaneiras
16 La Raspa
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