José Alberto (El Ruiseñor): Mi Tumbao

May 18, 2021

Provincial Classic

Listening Post 303. A freedom-fighting poet named Perucho Figueredo wrote La Bayamesa, Cuba’s national anthem, on horseback in 1867, after Spanish authorities surrendered to pro-independence forces in Bayamo. More than 150 years on, the city—located in eastern Cuba’s Granma province—still has abundant horse traffic and resounding music composed locally by José Alberto Tamayo Diaz, popularly known as El Ruiseñor (The Nightingale). Before the pandemic he performed on Bayamo’s main street/pedestrian mall every Saturday; after a forced pause he was one of the first Cuban artists to host an online fundraising concert honoring the country’s doctors and nurses, which he broadcast from his backyard. And as coronavirus raged, he earned new recognition for his home town when Mi Tumbao, his third album, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Latin Tropical Album category. In a career spanning more than 30 years, José Alberto has embodied Cuban music with his magnetic voice and pulsating songs, even as he crossed into other Latin genres. Rooted in son cubano and salsa, the 10 tracks of Mi Tumbao also embrace guaracha, cumbia, merengue and bachata and speak to the lives and struggles, loves and manners of the guajiro—workers and people of the countryside with whom the artist identifies. In Emigrante he laments the plight of migrants who cross borders illegally and live in fear of deportation (video 1). Cualquiera resbala y cae (Anyone Can Stumble and Fall, video 2) is a discourse on the evils of gossip. With Lagrimas Negras (Black Tears, video 3), José Alberto offers a salsified version of a piano-bar standard first recorded by the Trio Matamoros in 1931. And Princesa, the album’s sweet concession to sentimentality, evokes beauty, moonlight and dance (video 4). With roots as deep as those of the mango tree in his yard, José Alberto reiterates in exuberant fashion that the provincial is also foundational. (Tumi Music)

José Alberto (El Ruiseñor): Mi Tumbao
Jose Alberto Tamayo Diaz: Lead vocals
Cándido Fabré: Guest vocals
Geovanis Alcántara López: Piano
Eugenio Dinza Ges: Trombone
Abel Virelles González: Trumpet
Jorge Brauet: Sax
Esteban Rivas: Timbal, bongos
Manuel Bracho: Conga
Emiliano De La Vega: Percussions
Alfredo Richardson: Guitar
Yunior Hechavarría Casanova: Tres
Alejandro Miguel Garrido de la Cruz: Maracas
Alexis Hechavarría: Double bass
Geovanis Alcántara López: Bass guitar
Alexis Hechavarría, Yian López, Geovanis Alcántara López: Backing vocals
Carlos Javier Alcántara López: Keyboards, percussion
Emiliano De La Vega: Guira
Geovanis Alcántara López: Production and arrangements

Note: In Afro-Cuban music, “tumbao” refers to the basic rhythm played on the bass.


Emigrante / Emigrant
Lyrics & music: José Alberto Tamayo Diaz

(From the Spanish lyrics)
How sad to go through life/without a visa or passport
This is how many emigrants live/in fear of being deported

The earth cannot take any more/so much war in this world
There are presidents who have/a very warm heart

Today’s emigrants/risk their lives
Looking for a bit of peace/somewhere to buy food.

See their children grow/without hunger or threat
While politicians send bombs/destroying their houses

You have to think about life/my people, what is happening
How are we going to be safe/if our race comes to an end

When I see the news/about what happens at sea
About shooting at the border/it makes me want to cry

This has to change/Down with ambition
There is only one heaven in this world /Why so much division?

Let’s change the world a little/for the good of all humanity
Give the migrant a hand/help a little more


Anyone Can Slip and Fall (feat. Cándido Fabré)
Lyrics & music: José Alberto Tamayo Diaz

Stop the nonsense, my friend/where everything is a lie
Anyone can slip and fall/and disgrace himself

I know we are smooth dancers/rumberos from head to toe
But when it comes to gossip/there we lose our balance

Inventing interesting stories/with vivid imagination
Without knowing the consequences/well, the victim pays the price

Stop the nonsense, my friend/where everything is a lie
Anyone can slip and fall/and disgrace himself

It’s a mortal wound/that bears attention
The truth is distorted/when it is slandered

What’s happening to so-and-so/shouldn’t become an echo
If you don’t know the truth/don’t say what you are unsure of

Stop the nonsense, my friend/where everything is a lie
Anyone can slip and fall/and disgrace themself

Anyone can slip and fall/look in that mirror
Inventing lies with legs/is the work of assholes

They slandered the virgin/they slandered my country
And if you are the one who creates the lies/it can happen to you.

Don’t play with someone’s life/or with anyone’s reputation
It’s a coward’s business/the scam of scams
The problem that is mine today/tomorrow can be yours.

If you think you can’t slip/if you think you won’t fall
An enemy may arrive/who reinvents you, my friend
And then you will know/the dark side

If they impose themselves in your story/everyone slips and falls.
If they impose themselves in your life/slip and fall


Lagrimas Negras / Black Tears
Lyrics & music: Miguel Matamoros

Even though you left me/Even though you killed my dreams
I won’t curse you in anger/In my dreams I shower you with blessings.

I suffer the agony of your straying/I feel the profound pain of your departure
And I weep without you knowing/That my tears are black
Like my life

You want to leave me/I don’t want to suffer
I leave with you, my love/Even if it costs me my life.

You want to leave me/I don’t want to suffer
I leave with you my saint/Even if it costs me my life

Wherever you go my love, I go with you
Because as much as I want to/My love, I won’t forget you.

Wherever are you going, beautiful and precious Cubana
Bring me the smile of two palm trees
Wherever are you going, my beautiful and precious Cubana
Bring me the smile of two palm trees.

Oh your mouth, your lips, your hair and your eyes, love
Oh look, let me tell you, I can’t forget you, woman

You want to leave me/I don’t want to suffer
I go with you, my love/Even if it costs me my life


Princesa / Princess
Lyrics & music: José Alberto Tamayo Diaz

This song is for you/princess
The night makes you/beautiful
The sky is crying
Because it lacks/a star.

I want to dance with you/in the moonlight
To be a witness
Of your skin/Clean and pure

Two angels/accompany us
On this perfect/night
Because I love you so much
My beautiful princess

Let me dance with you/let me try
Let me feel like an angel/when I hold your hand
I don’t want the sunrise/I prefer your nakedness
Contemplate every detail/love you over and over again

My Princess ballerina/let me dance with you
Because when I don’t have you around
My body is/very cold

My princess ballerina/my dove without a nest
Let me give you the warmth/Because they have promised you so much
Let me dance with you/let me try



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