In this Puerto Rican folk song we learn that “La Colorá” is a nickname for someone with red hair, though it could also imply a light composition and fiery personality. in the original, Madam Maria has a grinder and must hurry to get it and grind some yuca/cassava, which is an edible starchy plant that mainly grows in tropical and subtropical areas, to use it for flour or else the yuca will go bad.
Juan Morel Campos, Puerto Rico’s most famous composer, is said to have written this song. The liner notes of the album where I first heard this song–the Monitor recording, “Bomba: Monitor Presents Music of the Caribbean”–compare Campos “[occupies] a place in the island’s legend comparable to Stephen Foster in the U.S.A.” The song is also attributed to another well-known Puerto Rican musician, Rafael Cepeda Atiles.
The Puerto Rican folk song song originated as a “guaracha,” a form of music with bawdy lyrics meant to accompany dances that blended Spanish and African moves. The guaracha originated in Spain and became a staple of Cuban theater groups that toured Puerto Rico in the 1800s, which would play clever guaracha songs between acts of their performances to keep the audience entertained.
The guitar-like instrument you hear in our arrangement is a three-stringed Cuban guitar known as a tres, and the genre, changui, is a distinct form found mainly in Eastern Cuba.
An original version of La Colora, performed by the Colon Sisters and the Paquito Lopez Cruz Ensemble
Country: Cuba/Puerto Rico
Genre on CD: Changui
Instruments on CD: Bass, Bongo, Tres
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