Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Celia Cruz : Oye Como Va and Cuban/Puerto Rican Attitudes to Color

I started this post as about Cuban/Puerto Rican Attitudes to Color and sort of got into the comparisons with the Lankan attitude to a persons of color.

Oye Como Va, made very popular by Santana from his Abraxas Album. If you are into Latin jazz and mambo Tito Puente made this song famous in 1963. The version below is from Celia Cruz who also sang Guntanamera in 1940 (The girl from Guantanamo Bay), (did a post on that a few weeks back). In 2002 she won the Grammy for Best Salsa Album La Negra Tiene Tumbao (please watch the video, its great).

I am kind of digressing. The Celia Cruz's Grammy title song makes a good intro to what I see as the Cuban/Puerto Rican thinking of race/color, i.e. what you see is what it is.

La Negra: The Black girl
Tiene Tumbao: Has Rythm attitude

In the words from Oye Como Va, uses Mulatto to refer to probably a light skinned girl.
Oye como va : Listen how it goes
mi ritmo : my rhythm
Bueno pa' gozar, mulata : Good to enjoy, mulatto
Oye como va : Listen how it goes
mi ritmo : my rhythm
Bueno pa' gozar mulata : Good to enjoy, mulatto

I guess the average Sri Lankans dont realize there are are other parts of the world who are about comfortable with color as the average Sri Lankan. The average means, those who are minimally westernized and call their sister Kalu Nangi, not their third cousin removed whom they meet once in three years at the wedding or funeral. We (to be realistic not me) use words like Kalu Nangi/Kalu Aiya (Black Sister/ Black Brother). Equally well Sudu Nangi/Sudu Aiya (White Sister/ White Brother). There is no comparison with our Northern neighbor, where black is just not cool. You just would not want to have a name like Kaluwitharana or Dharmadasa either as whatever up thousand miles up North. Maybe even 150 miles up north a two or three decades back.

So what do I attribute this kind of open mind. I really think its one word, ISLAND.

For those who think differently, I would suggest visiting the south which I know well. Every other family has a relative who is married out. Can be a female or male and often not even met while in Sri Lanka. In other words tourism was not the biggest factor. So could (really should) also write about the European guy who walks his daughter to school in Pathana (Hikkaduwa). Another day for that.

Finally a comment, I really dont wish to be anonymous. I am a Tamil whatever that is . I consider my home to be the south so what more can I say. Had my DNA tested too, I have no clue. Confused, yes and finding my way and its the journey, lost my way a few years back and think I know where I am going now.

So more Cuban music below Callejon de hamel , watch the woman in red at 1:45 mins

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