Monday, January 28, 2013

Holguín Son

Revised January 2017

(Also try the live version, which includes nice streetscapes and landscapes.)

During my 2003 visit to Cuba, the entire group quickly grew tired of the catchy, ubiquitous song "Guantanamara," to the point that we considered implementing a fine for involuntary humming of the song by group members. I might have felt differently had I understood the political significance of the song, but probably not: it is the ultimate earworm.

The opening chords of "Chan Chan" evoked no such response. We heard it almost as often, and I certainly never tired of it. A decade later, it always takes me on a brief mental journey back to Havana. The song is a romantic -- even somewhat ribald -- example of Cuban son, a style introduced to many North American audiences (including me) by Ry Cooder's Buena Vista Social Club project.

As much as I associate the song with Havana -- because it was recorded there -- the song itself is set in the eastern province of Holguín, coincidentally home to Fidel and Raul Castro. It evokes a day of traveling from three small towns in the hills down to the beach town of Mayari.

View Chan Chan in a larger map

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