Vicente García: Candela

Sewing a Song, Composing a Flag

Listening Post 240. According to legend, during the Dominican Republic’s War of Independence a certain solider abandoned his post in the midst of battle, and after victory his comrades mockingly sang ”Tomás fled with the flag” in a distinctive rhythm that became the foundation of merengue. Almost certainly apocryphal, the legend nonetheless reflects a central truth: The music style goes to the heart of Dominican culture and identity. More to the point, merengue—with its sister genre bachata—honors its real flag bearers. Juan Luis Guerra, the poet-composer who put Dominican music on the world stage, has carried the banner for 30 years. And with Candela (Fire), Vicente García composes his third album into an impressive case for the mantle of heir apparent—notably with Guerra’s help. García’s systematic approach involves retreating to the music’s string-driven Afro-Dominican origins (before the introduction of the now-traditional accordion), advancing into electronic sound, and moving sideways with trap, dub, reggae and Afro-beat touches. The result: 12 richly textured songs about love (sparkling in loss as well as in joy) and evoking his country’s tropical landscape. In Ahí Ahí (Always, More or Less), he describes a hot-and-cold romance in a bachata fusion framed by Zulu choruses, bongo and güira (video 1). A love-garden metaphor drives the soukous-tinged merengue Loma de Cayenas (Hill of Cayenne, video 2), featuring Guerra, with whom García toured and for whom he opened for several years. The plantation symbolism is an outlet for frustration in El Reperpero (Confusion, video 3). And unlike the tale of Tomás the deserter, there may be some truth behind the English-Spanish ballad Palm Beach, spinning the origin story of a slower merengue for Gringo feet—dubbed pambiche—during the first U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1916 (video 4). A Grammy nominee for Candela, García—even without a flag—is regularly saluted at home and abroad. (Sony Music Entertainment Colombia)

Note and Related Post. Candela earned Vicente García a 2020 Grammy nomination in the Best Tropical Latin Album category. Nominated in the same category was Literal by his mentor, Juan Luis Guerra. For the review of Guerra’s album’s album see Listening Post 220, September 24, 2019.
https://worldlisteningpost.com/2019/09/24/juan-luis-guerra-literal/

 

Ahí Ahí / Always, More or Less
Vicente García

From the Spanish lyrics
You healed my song/You dried my tears, we drank from the sun
On roads where the wind took us/You prayed to the saints
Dressed in charm and dreams/The memory that time has left us

I want all of you, take everything from me/Enough of seeing who is right
Always waiting, forbearing/Savoring love’s scent

Always more or less/Let your kiss grow accustomed to my passion
You always hide/Don’t let my embrace forget your warmth
Always more or less/When the heart isn’t right
Forever/I live for your kisses, I die without them

Wake up, undress the day with your body/I always believe this dream will take me flying with the wind
I cross the sea, sun dawning on the horizon/You see me arriving and it’s the same story

Always more or less/Let your kiss grow accustomed to my passion
You always hide/Don’t let my embrace forget your warmth
Always more or less/When the heart isn’t right
Forever/I live for your kisses, I die without them

You hide/I live for your kisses, I die without
Always more or less/Why don’t you come back to me
If I wait for you here/In the shade of the mango
You know how much, how much, how much, mama
Always more or less/You healed my song, you dried my tears
We drank from the sun
Always, more or less

 

Loma de Cayenas / Cayenne Hill
Vicente García

The first time I saw you/My life dawned again
My soul was inspired/To plant love’s garden

When I saw you/I gave you my passion
The sun in your mornings/The flowering of little buds

And so this hill of cayenne grew/Born in my heart for you
For you, hope began to spread/Morena, when I saw you

Rain fell and flowers grew/The fruit is already harvested, from our dreams
Pretty mother, when I saw you

Rain fell on the earth, you gave me a thousand reasons
Mistress of my dreams, queen of my love/Mistress of my dreams, the queen of my love

Oh queen/Of my love
Oh morena

When I saw you/You were my awakening
The sky changed color/It turned chili pepper red

When I saw you/I felt like I was flying
I had the whole world/The bud was blooming

And so this hill of cayenne grew/Born in my heart for you
For you, hope began to spread/Morena, when I saw you

Rain fell and flowers grew/The fruit is already harvested, from our dreams
Pretty mother, when I saw you

Rain fell on the earth, you gave me a thousand reasons
Mistress of my dreams, queen of my love/Mistress of my dreams, the queen of my love

And so this Cayenas hill grew in my heart for you/And so this Cayenas hill grew in my bosom
And so this Cayenas hill grew in my heart for you/And so this Cayenas hill grew in my bosom

Oh Morena!
Rain fell and flowers grew/The fruit is already harvested, from our dreams
Pretty mother, when I saw you

Rain fell on the earth, you gave me a thousand reasons
Mistress of my dreams, queen of my love/Mistress of my dreams, the queen of my love

Oh queen/Of my love
Oh Morena/Oh my love

 

El Reperpero / Confusion
Vicente García

And it’s that I…/I prefer grating yucca
I’d rather chop cane/I’d rather forget your love
But I…/I prefer grating yucca
I’d rather chop cane/I’d rather forget your love

My heart is faith over despair/Affectionate prisoner of doubt and confusion
And rightly my bosom churns in chaos/I would rather escape from this situation

And it’s that I…/I prefer grating yucca
I’d rather chop cane/I’d rather forget your love
But I…/I prefer grating yucca
I’d rather chop cane/I’d rather forget your love

Hey Dorossau! Consa!*
… And how hard the cane stung

Grate the yucca/So I won’t want your love
Chop the cane/Tell me that to feel my love
Grate the yucca/That I can’t be what you want
Forget your love/That I continue thinking

Grate the yucca/So I won’t want your love
Chop the cane/Tell me that you feel my love
Grate the yucca/That I can’t be what you want
Forget your love/I’m still dreaming

Little birds in the air/Suddenly fall
Just as I can no longer fly on your love

* Reference to Haitian accordionist Richard Duroseau, who plays on this track.

 

Palm Beach
Vicente García

Translations from Spanish lines in italics
He came to the rescue of nothing in 1916/Standing on the frontline of my Puerto Plata

They met Wednesday night in the middle of Cofresí/And then he fell in love with his Caribbean mulata

She said/Slow down the rhythm
We’ll find a way/He reminisces and sings

Take me to Palm Beach/Take me back
And we’ll dance this Palm Beach merengue
Palm beach/I want to dance again

With my young cayena in Palm Beach/Take me back
And we’ll dance that merengue of pacification
Palm beach/I wanna dance again with my morena in Palm Beach

Take me back/Take me back to Palm Beach
Take me back

He came to rescue right when the Memphis met the sea/The tidal wave just broke the heart of his Arawak girl
So they sent him back where was meant to be/He had to say goodbye to his Caribbean mulata

Ay in Quisqueya, the beauty fell in love!
Of his Cibaeña he grew fond
What a mess!

She said/Slow down the rhythm
We’ll find a way/He reminisces and sings

Take me to Palm Beach/Take me back
And we’ll dance the Palm Beach merengue
Palm beach/I want to dance again

With my young cayena in Palm Beach
Take me back/And let’s dance that merengue of pacification
Palm beach/I wanna dance again with my young morena
I wanna dance again with my young Cayena/I wanna dance with her in the middle of Cofresí
Palm Beach crush

Take me to Palm Beach/Take me back
And we’ll dance this Palm Beach merengue
Palm beach/As before, when we were two lovers
Take me to Palm Beach/There on the beach where we fell in love
Take me back/Where we made time slow down and caressed each other
Palm beach/We were honey and bee for the güira and drum
To dance with my morena
Take me back to Palm beach/Take me back, to middle of Cofresí

Take me back/Won’t you take me back
Take me back to Palm Beach/Won’t you take me

Take me back to Palm Beach

 


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