Yoruba Dialects in Salsa/Rumba

Discussion in 'Salsa Music' started by neken187, Oct 15, 2011.

  1. neken187

    neken187 Changui

    Hey everyone,

    There are plenty of salsa songs out there that use terms that refer to African ancestry. I'm interested in what some of those terms mean. If anyone knows a site or books that translate some of those terms please feel free to share :) I've started to become more interested in how Rumba influences salsa. I'm aware of Abakua and the Orichas, but if anyone knows any pages for good references to read please post them.

    One of my favorite artists is Jimmy Sabater. In a lot of his music, I know he mentions some of the Orichas but some of the terms I don't understand.

    Here are some of the songs I can think of from the top of my head that use certain African terms.

    Tito Rodriguez y su orquesta - Chen chere en guma
    Machito - Chango ta beni
    Cortijo y su combo - Druma Cuyi
    Jimmy Sabater - Malambo
    Jimmy Sabater - Yroco
    Los Jimaguas - Con permiso Yemaya.. (also El Gran combo - Moforibale al tambo)
    Sonora Poncena - Acere Ko
    Sonora Poncena - Ecue Baroni

    If anyone could share some light on the subject :)
  2. timberamayor

    timberamayor Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    There are a number of site with dictionaries. Even santeros, paleros etc often have their own reference books for less commonly used words words. For example...


    there are tons of references in Cuban music. Lots of songs that incorporate some of the songs of various Orishas or just use yoruba words.
    Arsenio had a number of songs with African words.
    Look at the list of songs in the menu to the right.

    Many Cuban musicians are Santeros and both Adalberto Álvarez and Pupy Pedroso are babalaos. So the yoruba stuff is a part of their daily life and also mixed in all the time with their music.

    Lots of Modern stuff like
    Adalberto Álvarez - Y qué tú quieres que te den. I like this video cause it has a lot of dancing of the orishas. especially from 4.20

    There are so many examples I don't know where to start except with this one of course But since you weren't asking about that but rather translations of the words, I'll stop here.
  3. arsenio123

    arsenio123 Son Montuno

    Let us do a little bit of decoding.

    Chen chere en guma is actually kikongo. It is actually "Chechere Ngoma". Ngoma means 'drums and music' in kikongo. Chechere comes from 'kekere' meaning 'thanks for'. Together it means thank you for the drums and the music.

    It is the cuban Justi Barreto who composed this mambo using a Congo theme.

  4. arsenio123

    arsenio123 Son Montuno

    The phrase 'chango ta veni' is coming from Yoruba/Lucumi and means “the spirit of the Yoruba thunder-god be coming down”. It is a Mambo Oriza played by Machito.

  5. Marcos

    Marcos Son Montuno

    I purchased two books on the subject of the Orisha legends and practices, and now I have a pretty decent idea when Santeria is referred to. If you want to learn what is being said it's very helpful to learn their legends, via reading a book, good website, etc; it will enrich your understanding of the music. Unfortunately the Yorubas didn't have a written tradition for their beliefs, so there's a lot of interpretation and phone game changes that you can expect from a vocal tradition that's written down hundreds of years later. The books also helped me to understand there are other African traditions discussed, and where those originate in Africa.

    BTW the best book on Cuban music is by Ned Subblete, Cuba and its Music.

    Finally, my studies have done is to make me realize that many artists only study their traditions superficially and it's not uncommon to see them make easy errors, jump from one tradition to another mid-song, misinterpret a tradition's teachings, jump from Christianity to African traditions, etc. Take "Moti Agua" by Ismael Rivera for example, where he says that a Carabali spoke in Luccumi. Carabalis don't speak Luccumi, which is not to say that a Carabali couldn't learn it, but that's like saying a Hispanic spoke in Portuguese without any context.
  6. arsenio123

    arsenio123 Son Montuno

    That is nice, Santeria is hot, there are a lot of books on it! There are a lot of people trying to make money out of it in Cuba and the US!

    Ned Sublette is not bad but in New York they prefer Cuban guaracha and descarga and both of these genres are hardly mentioned in his book, so it difficult to analyse what Tico, Allegre and Fania All Stars did as well as Eddie Palmieri and La Perfecta!

    Afrocuban congueros like Patato, Mongo, Candido and Armando all understand kikongo, lucumi and abakua!


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