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SpanishEnglishPt. 3 - Song by Song - 3. Cristobalina

(El chupa chupa)
by Gil Valladares
[click here for full lyrics and analysis of form]

"Cristobalina", all jesting aside, is almost undoubtedly the most beautiful and elegant piece of music ever written on the subject of blow jobs. It has four of Tirso Duarte's most serious and sublime montunos, combined with lyrics that would make even Los Van Van's Pedro Calvo blush. I myself was reveling in Tirso's MIDI tumbaos from this song for quite some time before I even heard the song itself, and when I first heard the lyrics, I assumed that "cristobalina" was Spanish for "crystal ball" and the other Spanish words I recognized were the names of nearly every major Timba band (except Charanga Forever of course). So I assumed that the lyrics were talking about the past and future of Cuban music, using the idea of a crystal ball as a metaphor.

Well, as it turns out, "crystal ball" is "bola de cristal" and "Cristobalina" is the name of the girl Aned wants to take on a date, but she only wants to hear the aforementioned top bands, and he can't afford any of them, but thinks he has a better way to amuse her, which is where the alternate title comes in.

Now that we've gotten sex out of the way, let's move on to politics! If one listens to early live recordings of this song, "El Médico de la Salsa" is included in the list of bands that Christie the material girl wants to hear, but as Manolín had become "persona non grata" in Cuba by the time of the recording, this line was changed from "El Médico de la Salsa" to "El Chévere de la Salsa", giving Issac Delgado two separate mentions in the song, while Klimax was snubbed completely in spite of the great songs that Piloto had contributed to La CH! (but what rhymes with Klimax?).

In spite of the mismatch between the lyrics and music, this is definitely one of the album's best songs. Like all the songs in this article the arrangement is analyzed section by section on the lyrics/form page so here we'll just cover some of the highlights.

The first tumbao uses a typical classical piano figure which plays a descending scale on the downbeats, alternating with a repeating higher note on the upbeats, but then shortly afterwards it flips the figure around so that the repeated notes are on the downbeats and the melody on the upbeats. Then it flips back again, creating a very cool rhythmic tension. Here it is slow [audio example 20]. Now here's a MIDI recording of Tirso playing the whole tumbao, with the bass coming in first. [audio example 21] Finally, here it is in the context of the song. [audio example 22]. Here's another section of Tumbao 1 which really highlights the contrast between the music and lyrics! [audio example 23].

The second tumbao is only played twice, behind the horn mambo, but it's a gorgeous miniature composition which lends itself well to Duarte's improvisational style. [audio example 24]

Tumbao 3 [audio example 25] is the basis for a series of coros and guías that never ceases to amaze me. As you can see from the lyrics, each coro and each guía section lasts two bars, or one cycle of the piano/bass tumbao. But Aned usually adds a line between the two phrases of the coro and the coristas usually add a line in the middle of Aned's guía! So it really breaks each two-clave segment into 3 parts! The coro is really coro-guía-coro, and the guía is really guía-coro-guía. It's hard to describe, but why try when you can just listen to it! Passages like this demonstrate the utter futility of trying to write about music without the ability to add audio examples. [audio example 26].


coro 2 (2)

coro: qué es lo que quiere la niña?
Aned: ay, qué cosa
coro: un chupa chupa de piña

guía (2)

Aned: un chupa chupa con sabor a piña
coro: ¿y si no hay?
Aned: a ella lo mismo le da que sea vainilla

coro 2 (2)

coro: ¿qué es lo que quiere Teresa?
Aned: ¿qué quiere esa belleza?
coro: un chupa chupa de fresa

guía (2)

Aned: y pa' que quiere Teresa
un chupa chupa de fresa
pa' que se le quiten los dolores de cabeza

coro 2 (2)

coro: ¿qué es lo que quiere la niña?
Aned: ¿qué quiere esa niña?
coro: un chupa chupa de piña

guía (2)

Aned: estaba la pájara pinta
sentada en su verde limón [referencia a Tony Calá de NG en "Échale Limón", y originalmente de una canción infantil]
coro: y se encontró un chupa chupa
Aned: al que le tocó le tocó [referecia a la música folklórica, por ejemplo de Lázaro Ros del Conjunto Folklórico Nacional]

coro 2 (2)

coro: qué es lo que quiere Teresa?
Aned: y al que Dios se lo dió... [referencia a un refrán popular de Cuba "al que Dios se lo dió, san Pedro se lo bendiga"]
coro: un chupa chupa de fresa

guía (2)

Aned: que se lo recomendó su doctor
coro: ¿y qué le dijo?
Aned: pruébalo - no importa el sabor

coro 2 (2)

coro: ¿qué es lo que quiere la niña?
Aned: ay, qué no, qué no
coro: un chupa chupa de piña

guía (2)

Aned: Ay!! llegó la hora
de probar tu chupa chupa
ahora yo voy a repartir
lo que te gusta [audio example 26]

Near the end is a series of three "quotes" resulting in one of the most inspired and joyful passages in all of Timba.First is "estaba la pájara pinta, sentada en su serde limón". It's an old children's song, but Timba fans know it as a classic Tony Calá guía from an earlier Timba masterpiece, "Échale Limón", also featuring the great drummer Calixto Oviedo who is of course the father of Yulién Oviedo, the drummer on "Cristobalina". [audio example 27]. Aned sings the same basic guía in double time [audio example 28] and then, as if suddenly possessed by the spirit of Tony Calá, his voice morphs into the same ultra-nasal folkloric timbre that Calá used so brilliantly with NG, for example on "Santa Palabra" from the same album [audio example 29]. The quote itself is from Lázaro Ros, one of the living legends of Cuban folkloric music and a 2001 Latin Grammy winner. Between the lines of the next coro, Aned throws in still a third quote, "y al que Dios se lo dió", from an old Cuban refrain. In all of these quotes, the words and general shape of the original melody are retained, but with the completely different harmonies of the Cristobalina tumbao they become something new and magical.

Tirso saves his most beautiful tumbao for last [audio example 30] (listen to the melody of the bass!) while the singers continue this odd ode to oral sex with more cleverly paraphrased nursery rhymes, this time from the Yuma ("Ring Around the Rosie"). Calzado then ties everything together neatly by returning to Tumbao 1 with a mambo based on the same "pájara pinta" quote. [audio example 31].

Tuesday, 20 March 2018, 02:48 AM