La Bamba (song)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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"La Bamba" is a Mexican folk song, originally from the state of Veracruz, best known from a 1958 adaptation by Ritchie Valens, a top 40 hit in the U.S. charts and one of early rock and roll's best-known songs.

Contents

Traditional origins

Influenced by Spanish flamenco and a traditional mambo latin rhythm, the song uses jarana jarocha, guitar, and harp. Lyrics to the song greatly vary, as performers often improvise verses while performing. However, versions such as those by musical groups Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan and Los Pregoneros del Puerto have survived because of the artists' popularity. The traditional aspect of "La Bamba" lies in the tune itself, which remains the almost the same through most versions.Template:Dubious The name of the dance, which has no direct English translation, is presumably connected with the Spanish verb bambolear, meaning "to shake" or perhaps "to stomp".

The traditional "La Bamba" is often played during weddings in Veracruz, where the bride and groom perform the accompanying dance. Today this wedding tradition is not done as frequently as in the past, but the dance is still popular, perhaps through the popularity of ballet folklórico. The dance is performed displaying the newly-wed couple’s unity through the performance of complicated, delicate steps in unison as well as through creation of a bow from a listón, a long red ribbon, using only their feet.

The "arriba" (literally "up") part of the song suggests the nature of the dance, in which the footwork, called "zapateado", is done faster and faster as the music tempo accelerates. The repeated lyric, "Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán" (lit: "I am not a sailor, I am a captain"), refers to Veracruz's marine locale and perhaps the husband's promise that he will remain faithful to his wife.

Valens' version

The traditional song inspired Ritchie Valens' rock and roll version "La Bamba" in 1958. Valens' "La Bamba" infused the traditional tune with a rock drive, in part provided by session drummer Earl Palmer and session lead guitarist Carol Kaye, making the song accessible to a much wider record audience and earning it (and Valens) a place in rock history (inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001). The song features a simple verse-chorus form. Valens, who was proud of his Mexican heritage, was hesitant at first to merge "La Bamba" with rock and roll but then agreed. Valens obtained the lyrics from his aunt Ernestine Reyes and learned the Spanish lyrics phonetically, as he had been raised from birth speaking English. Valens' version of "La Bamba" is ranked number 345 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is the only song on the list not sung in English. The song also ranked #98 in VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll and #59 in VH1's 100 Greatest Dance Songs of Rock and Roll, both done in 2000.

In popular culture

Advertising

The tune of "La Bamba" was used to promote 101, a cigarette that was Chesterfield's extra-long brand. To emphasize its difference from the other extra long brands which were all 100 mm long, commercials in the late 1960s for 101 cigarettes used the phrase "a silly millimeter longer" sung to the tune of "La Bamba".

The tune of "La Bamba" can also be heard in the background of Old El Paso Taco Commercials.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "La Bamba (song)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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