1. Seven years after the end of the people’s war in Nepal, a new, heroic wave of revolutionary uprising is about to break out.

    It has a specific date: November 19. The world must know about this. Those of us who hear about it must not be silent. Learn more: http://bit.ly/1b6W06x

     

  2. "You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen."
    — 

    Thomas Sankara

     

  3. SONG OF THE DAY: SILVIO RODRIGUEZ - CANCION PARA MI SOLDADO [CUBA, 1984]

    "If I fall along the way make my gun sing,
    broaden its destiny because it shouldn’t die!”

    FOR PREVIOUS EPISODES CLICK HERE.

    Hello followers! Today we’re going to be returning to the Caribbean after a long hiatus, and I am finally going to be posting a song by famed Cuban trovador, Silvio Rodriguez.

    ARTIST

    Silvio Rodriguez is by far the most recognized and celebrated artist to come out of the broader nueva cancion boom which began in the mid-60s. Whereas in various countries throughout Latin America leftist folk musicians were often marginalized and harassed, Silvio began his career a few years after the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which, beginning around 1967, began to strongly endorse and support the budding new style. Since his first official album titled “Dias y Flores” (Days and Flowers) in 1975, he has recorded hundreds of songs (I have 468 by him but there are a lot of duplicates) and has written many more, and he continues to tour well into his 60s. This past summer (2010), he completed his first tour of the United States in 30 years and put on an AMAZING show in Oakland.

    His music, along with the broader nueva trova tradition, features very poetic and often politically-charged lyrics, often mixed with traditional Cuban rhythm and instrumentation (though often not). The level of poetry distinguishes nueva trova from nueva cancion, the latter often being more direct in its extolling of revolutionary ideas and its condemnation of exploitation and oppression. I feel that this stems from two particular points:

    1) The fact that Cuba was a society which had already undergone a revolution, thus negating the urgency for explicitly political music to inspire the people to action. Chile in the early 70s, for example, was run by a fragile socialist government within a capitalist state, and the threat of its defeat was far more urgent than in Cuba where the revolutionary government had already taken state power.

    2) The outstanding Cuban poetic tradition embodied in its national hero, Jose Marti.

    ALBUM

    Triptico was released in 1984 as a three volume album, set to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. Out of all his work, this is probably the album that I have listened to the least. It seems to be one of his more eclectic works, featuring a wide variety of sounds, genres and themes.

    SONG/CONTEXT:

    Cancion Para Mi Soldado (A Song for My Soldier) was released as the last song on the last volume of Triptico, but is, in my opinion, one of the best songs in his repertoire. At the time of being recorded onto the album, Cuba had long been involved in the Angolan Civil War, fighting on the side of the Marxist MPLA since 1975 against the US-backed combined forces of South Africa, Zaire, and the Angolan UNITA and FNLA. However, the lyrics were originally written around 1976, while Silvio was in Angola performing for the recently-arrived Cuban soldiers. The song is dedicated to the Cubans fighting alongside the MPLA for Angola’s independence from the aggressive maneuvers of apartheid South Africa and Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), then run by kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko. The lyrics link the guitar and the gun as equally important in the struggle for liberation, a theme we saw recently by looking at a song from Guitarra Armada (Armed Guitar) by the Mejia Godoy brothers of Nicaragua.

    MUSICAL ELEMENTS

    This song is quite different from basically everything we’ve looked at so far in this series, so let’s dig into some of the details.

    First, we’ll notice that this song is in 4/4 (quadruple) meter, as opposed to the most recent two songs, which were both in 3/4 (triple). That means that this song will have measures with 4 beats each, as opposed to three. If you know Latin American music, that means it will have a rhythm more like salsa and less like a corrido; if you know US American white people music better, it will have a rhythm more like rock and less like a waltz.

    Next, we’ll notice a very different instrumentation here. Starting from the beginning of the song, the first sound we will hear is a tres, a three-course, six-string chordophone common in traditional Cuban son and trova. We should also notice a second chordophone which sounds like an acoustic guitar. Try isolating the sound on your left ear (acoustic guitar) then your right (Cuban tres) to notice the difference. In addition, we’ll hear the claves, which are the minor percussion instrument that sounds like two hollow sticks hitting each other.

    Once the song really gets going, quite a few elements get added to the mix. First, we’ll notice the trumpets, which are common in a variety of Cuban forms. Additionally, we will hear the maracas which fill a lot of the empty audible space present in the first 18 seconds or so. After a couple seconds, we’ll notice what sounds like a western concert flute (quite different from the quena and zampoña we’ve been hearing) that plays somewhat of a call-and-response with the trumpets and fills space between lines in the singing. Rounding out the ensemble is an electric bass and either conga or bongo drums (which I can’t distinguish by ear).

    Vocals are double-layered with Pablo Milanes, the second most famous Cuban trovador in the post-1959 era, providing backup to Silvio. Rodriguez and Milanes have collaborated on quite a few projects and have frequently performed together, with a relationship going back decades.

    Here are the lyrics in English and Spanish for your convenience. I hope you enjoy and please contact me if you have any questions or comments!

    SPANISH:

    Si caigo en el camino,
    hagan cantar mi fusil
    y ensánchenle su destino
    porque él no debe morir.

    Si caigo en el camino
    como puede suceder,
    que siga el canto mi amigo,
    cumpliendo con su deber.

    La muerte pone un silbido
    en los oídos del hombre,
    canto que no tiene nombre,
    canción que busca su tino,
    voz de la selva, destino
    simple de hombre militante,
    el trono de los instantes,
    ley suprema de la suerte,
    como me manda la muerte
    con su palabra quemante.

    Si caigo en el camino,
    hagan cantar mi fusil
    y ensánchenle su destino
    porque él no debe morir.

    Si caigo en el camino
    como puede suceder,
    que siga el canto mi amigo,
    cumpliendo con su deber.

    Canción para mi soldado
    es la que quiero cantar
    y con ella confesar
    que es un canto enamorado.
    Porque la canta el de al lado,
    el de ayer, el de después;
    canción que nació una vez
    que se navegaba el mundo,
    cuando elegimos el rumbo
    bajo la estrella del Che.

    Si caigo en el camino,
    hagan cantar mi fusil
    y ensánchenle su destino
    porque él no debe morir.

    ENGLISH:

    If I fall along the way
    make my gun sing,
    broaden its destiny
    because it shouldn’t die.
    If I fall along the way
    as may happen,
    may the song continue, my friend
    performing its duty.

    Death puts a whistle
    in the ears of men
    It is a song with no name,
    a song that seeks its destination.
    It is the voice of the jungle, the
    simple destiny of a militant man,
    the throne of all moments,
    the supreme law of luck
    just as death commands me
    with his fiery words.

    If I fall along the way
    make my gun sing,
    broaden its destiny
    because it shouldn’t die.
    If I fall along the way
    as may happen,
    may the song continue, my friend
    performing its duty.

    The song for my soldier
    is the one I wish to sing,
    and with her to confess
    that this is a love song.
    Because it is sung by the next man,
    he from yesterday, he from after
    A song that was born once
    which sailed across the world
    when we chose our path
    under the star of Che.

    If I fall along the way
    make my gun sing,
    broaden its destiny
    because it shouldn’t die.