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SpanishEnglishPt. 3 - Song by Song - 4. Charanguero mayor

El Charanguero Mayor
by Tirso Duarte
[click here for full lyrics and analysis of form]

Three songs into the album, it's clearly evident that Calzado has emerged from the great Charanga breakup in triumph. This music is drastically different from Tremendo delirio, just as Tremendo delirio was drastically different from Hey You Loca, but what's common to all three is a relentless outpouring of creativity. A great deal of it came from González, Duarte, Limonta, Piloto, Manolín and many others, but the greatness of David Calzado, like that of Quincy Jones, can simply not be denied. He surrounds himself with brilliant musicians, but adds, along with his own significant musical input, a meticulous attention to detail that results in virtually every measure of every Charanga Habanera track containing some sort of musical gem.

This brings us to the spectacular title track. The first three arrangements are built around Duarte's tumbaos but this is his first full composition for the group, and one of the first songs that the new Charanga Habanera debuted when they first played live in Cuba in late 1998. Michel Maza was the only original Charanguero to stay with Calzado and it was he who originally sang this song, and another beautiful Duarte composition called Confianza that was inexplicably never recorded. Maza did record a radio demo of Charanguero mayor however. We have a partial recording of this that you can hear in the timba.com mp3 collection. (Look at the upper left hand column of this page for this and other full-length Charanga Habanera songs). Our dub of the radio demo fades before the end so we don't know how that version ends, but in concert, Michel's version ended with a series of dramatic transitions from very soft a capella versions of coro 3 to raging reprises of coro 2, leading eventually to a sometimes extended vocal cadenza from Michel. We're still trying to track down a complete, high-quality live recording of the Michel version of this song, but here's an excerpt from a really low-quality cassette we picked up on the streets in Havana. The sound quality is horrible but you can get the idea of how great this must have been in concert on good night. [audio example 32]

When Maza left the group, the song was too good to drop, but equaling his deep range and incredible vocal performance was not going to be an enviable task. Calzado wound up splitting the song, phrase by phrase, between five different singers, including Yulién, who although only sixteen at the time, was best able to handle the lowest parts of Michel's performance. As you can see from our lyric/form page, the cuerpo is divided more or less equally between Yulién, Tirso, Aned, Dantes, and Noel, and certain sections are sung together. For some time, the live show would feature an elaborate dance routine that would wind up with Yulién, one of Charanga Habanera's best dancers, sliding across the front of the stage, whereupon someone would hand him a mike and he would sing the opening lines of Charanguero mayor from that position and then dance his way back to his timbales.

After the cuerpo comes the first of Tirso's three tumbaos. [audio example 33]. The five singers divide Michel's original guías and interjections and sing them faithfully, with a few melodic enhancements. The most immediately recognizable is the one sung by Dantes, which cleverly combines a quote from Manolín's Somos lo que hay [audio example 34], with the tumbao in example 33 to great effect. [audio example 35].

The first tumbao ends with a mambo/coro thatfuses three different quotes. The first of three horn phrases quotes Jobim's Girl From Ipanema and the next two, if you listen carefully enough, quote the piano tumbao itself. To hear this, compare the piano in [audio example 33] with the horns in [audio example 36]. Meanwhile, the voice sing a countermelody, ("eh, eh, eh, eh...") that concludes with "saca tu patente, goza", which itself is a quote from Los Van Van's Camina pa'que te conozcan from their Ay Diós, ampárame album. [audio example 37]

With the horns doubling the piano, Tumbao 1 comes to a dramatic end and the band breaks down for Tumbao 2 with Tirso rapping over the top. Tumbao 2's piano part is even more fiery than the others and lends itself to a number of variations in Duarte's MIDI version [audio example 38].

For those who consider themselves to be truly bilingual, coro 2 presents a serious challenge! Without looking at the lyrics page, see if you can successfully decipher the coro! [audio example 39]

The reference in coro 2 makes more sense at the entrance of coro 3, which has its own special tumbao. [audio example 40] The combination of this extraordinary piano invention with the familiar reggae coro and the way it literally soars out of coro 2 is something to behold.[audio example 41] Equally exhilarating is the breakdown section that follows, with its dramatic synthesizer chords as Tirso cranks up the energy with "ay, manos pa'arriba to'los charangueros!".

Marley's No Woman No Cry is extremely popular in Cuba and many of the bands have included it in their live shows, including Issac Delgado, who loves to add it to No me mires a los ojos. On December 31, 1999, the eve of the new millennium. Issac gave one of the last concerts with one of his most famous groups, the one containing Joel Domínguez, Yoel Páez and El Majá. Tirso made a guest appearance at La Casa de la Música that night, contributing this now famous improvisation. [audio example 42] (the first coro Tirso introduces, "eso es...", comes from the new Charanga Habanera's live version of Usa condón by the way, and he also plays piano at the end of the clip).

Tuesday, 20 March 2018, 02:48 AM