Nicolás Guillén: “Bongo Song” / “La canción del bongó”

ZP_The Rooster Dances to My Bongo Beat_El Gallo Baila Con Mi Bongo_painting by_pintura de_George Rodez

ZP_The Rooster Dances to My Bongo Beat_El Gallo Baila Con Mi Bongo_painting by_pintura de_George Rodez

Nicolás Guillén

( Poeta afro-cubano, 1902-1989 )

“La canción del bongó” (1931)

.

Esta es la canción del bongó:

—Aquí el que más fino sea,

responde, si llamo yo.

Unos dicen: Ahora mismo,

otros dicen: Allá voy.

Pero mi repique bronco,

pero mi profunda voz,

convoca al negro y al blanco,

que bailan el mismo son,

cueripardos y almiprietos

más de sangre que de sol,

pues quien por fuera no es de noche,

por dentro ya oscureció.

Aquí el que más fino sea,

responde, si llamo yo.

En esta tierra, mulata

de africano y español

(Santa Bárbara de un lado,

del otro lado, Changó),

siempre falta algún abuelo,

cuando no sobra algún Don

y hay títulos de Castilla

con parientes en Bondó:

Vale más callarse, amigos,

y no menear la cuestión,

porque venimos de lejos,

y andamos de dos en dos.

Aquí el que más fino sea,

responde si llamo yo.

Habrá quién llegue a insultarme,

pero no de corazón;

habrá quién me escupa en público,

cuando a solas me besó…

A ése, le digo:

—Compadre,

ya me pedirás perdón,

ya comerás de mi ajiaco,

ya me darás la razón,

ya me golpearás el cuero,

ya bailarás a mi voz,

ya pasearemos del brazo,

ya estarás donde yo estoy:

ya vendrás de abajo arriba,

¡que aquí el más alto soy yo!

 

_____

 

Nicolás Guillén

(Black Cuban poet, 1902-1989)

“Bongo Song” (1931)

.

This is the Bongo Song:

– here may be the finest

– Respond, as I call it.

Some say:  Right now.

Others:  I’m on my way!

But my fury rings out,

My deepest voice

Summons both Black and White,

To dance to the same “Son”,

Brown-leather-skinned, darksouled,

More of blood than sun,

Who, outside, is of the night,

Who, inside, is already dark.

Here may be the finest

– Respond, as I call it.

In this “mulata” country,

African and Spanish,

(Saint Barbara on one side,

on the other – Shango ),

we’re always lacking a grandparent,

or have we one forebear too many – ?,

when a full-of-himself “Don”,

with a “titled” name from Castile

Has relatives in Bondo:

It matters more to hush your mouth, my friends,

Than to dangle the question…

Because We come from far away,

And now here we’re walking two by two.

Here may be the finest

– Respond, as I call it.

Oh, there’ll be those who even insult me,

But not from the heart;

There’ll be he who may spit at me in public,

When, alone together, we kissed…

To that I tell him:

– Compatriot,

Already you’ll ask my forgiveness,

You’ll eat my “ajiaco”,

Already you’ll give me some reason

To “tan my hide”,

Already you’ll dance to my voice,

And we’ll link arms,

Already you’ll be where I am:

You’ll sell all, everywhichway, top to bottom,

Now, here, the highest is ME !

 

 

*     *     *

Glossary:

Son – Quintessential original Cuban musical style, nascent in

the late 19th-century, flowered fully in the 20th;  a hybrid of

Bantu-African percussion – bongos, maracas – with Spanish guitars

and melodies, combined with African “call-and-response”

song structure; the precursor of modern-day “Salsa” music

Mulata – “mixed-race” i.e. African and European ancestry

Saint Barbara – Roman-Catholic saint, syncretized into

Santería, a Caribbean religion combining West-African and

Christian beliefs;  practised in Cuba.

Shango Yoruba-African God of fire, thunder and lightning

Don – prefix of Spanish nobility

Bondo – a “typical” African town/province name, found in

Congo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Uganda

Ajiaco – a hearty Cuban soup consisting of chicken, pork,

plaintains, sweet potatoes, taro, black pepper and lime juice

_____

Translation from Spanish into English:  Alexander Best


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