Friday, January 9, 2009
Mi Musica: Have Guitar Will Travel
Born into a family that loved music, naturally I was inspired to continue that tradition. Our family gathered twice a year, on Mother's Day and Christmas Day. After all the tamales, enchiladas, frijoles and other potluck surprises my two older brothers, Eddie and Jess would get their guitars and start to play and sing. We all joined in, knowing bits and pieces of rancheras, boleros, and corridos and often sang up to three and four-part harmonies. Ed had the finer voice of the two, but Jess could do the "requinto", picking out the melodies to a song on his guitar and he and Eddie sang some beautiful duets. We would sing into the early evening, until we had drunk so much that people starting falling asleep and forgetting the words to the songs. And that was it until the next holiday. Last to sing was my mom, who we prodded and prodded until she would finally give in, but only after a couple a glasses of champagne we also prodded her to drink. She had a fine almost soprano voice, and would complain: "Porque me hacen cantar? Ya saben que no puedo cantar!" (Why do you make me sing? You know I can't sing!). One of her favorite songs was "Rayando El Sol", a haunting song about a man crossing a river at sunset, who suddenly recalls his true love: "Que chulos ojos... los que tiene esa mujer" (what lovely eyes that woman has!) She would always ask me to sing with her, and I would sing a second harmony behind her. I couldn't play guitar in those early years, but with persistence, I learned basic chords, enough to accompany myself on simple songs. I made up for it with my voice and my ability to remember all the lyrics to many of the songs. These were popular Mexican songs I learned from a stack of old '78 RPM records we owned, and listening to them on the radio. Over the years, I would gain enough confidence to play and sing in front of people, and eventually to perform for audiences, and even got paid ($) for it once in a while! I never knew my Dad who left us when I was about 2, but my mother told me he had been the life of a party, played guitar and sang with a beautiful voice. Maybe I did inherit something from him after all. I still recall and play many of the old Mexican songs and people still love to hear them. Many of my old guitar playing buddies have passed on. We are the last of a breed. "Adios, adios, adios para siempre.... adios...."