Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Devuélveme el rosario de mi maaaaa-a-dre...

Y quédate con todo lo demáooo...

A couple of years ago we were watching Gente de Primera on TVe. Compared to the X Factor the production values might have been a bit wobbly, but the sheer talent of the young artists competing for the big recording contract was vastly superior. And given the comparative longevity of most of the stars of Spanish and Latin pop music, so was the prize they were competing for.

One of the contestants was a young boy called Israel. Almost every week the judges failed him and he had to face the public vote, not for lack of vocal gift, but because, a bit like Ray on the X Factor this year, he was seen as a one-trick pony, able only to make his mark in the cante traditional of Andalucia's gypsies. But what a pony. For me Flamenco is a hit or miss formula. It will either make you want to hold your ears in pain, or it will contrive to leave you an emotional wreck, throttling your soul with a potent mix of sadness and joy. There was one performance that Israel gave on this show I will never forget. He sang El rosario de mi madre, and it left us both with tears in our eyes. Duende, as they say.

At the time we heard the song attributed to the legendary Camarón de la Isla, who I guess you could describe as the gypsy Elvis (or Bob Marley). Yet there was something about the lyrics that made me want to investigate further: in all honesty the sentiments were just a bit too cheesey and sentimental to have come out of the slums of Sevilla. Sure enough, I found earlier Latin American versions of this song, such as a plaintive bolero, and eventually tracked its origin to Peru and Don Mario Cavagnaro, famed and quite prolific composer of Peruvian waltzes. Anyway, the full lyrics are here.

The first series of Gente de Primera was deservedly won by the Flamenco-inflected Yanira Figueroa and the second, equally deservedly in the end, by Nauzet from Tenerife.

Here he sings the classic Maná track Vivir sin Aire. Israel meanwhile is probably hot-wiring cars in the backstreets of some dusty Andalucian town.

It's a good enough rendition, but I think this particualr song needs to be treated a little more delicately. I once heard it being sung by a group of young Mexican tourists in the rainforest near Tikal and it is that version that has etched itself in my memory, even more so than the original.

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