Nicolás Guillén: “The Bongo’s 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” (1930)

.

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

(Cuban poet, 1902-1989)

“The Bongo’s Song” (1930)

(To Lino Dou)

.

This is the bongo’s song:

“Let the finest of you here

answer when I call you!

Some say: I’ll be right there,

others say: Just a minute.

But my harsh peal,

but my deep voice,

summons blacks and whites,

who dance to the same son,

men with brownish skins and blackish souls

caused more by blood than by the sun,

for who on the outside are not night,

have already darkened on the inside.

Let the finest of you here

answer when I call you.

.

“In this land made mulatto

by Africans and Spaniards

(Santa Bárbara  on the one hand,

Changó on the other),

there is always a missing grandfather,

when there isn’t an excess of Dons.

Some have titles from Castile

and relatives in Bondó :

it is better to keep quiet, my friends,

and not stir up the matter

because we came from far away,

and we walk two by two.

Let the finest of you here

answer when I call you!

.

“There’ll be those who will insult me,

but not of their full accord;

there’ll be those who spit on me in public,

yet when we are alone they kiss me…

To them I say:

My friends,

you’ll soon be begging my pardon,

you’ll soon be eating my ajiaco,

you’ll soon be saying I’m right,

you’ll soon be beating my leather,

you’ll soon be dancing to my voice,

we’ll soon walk arm in arm,

you’ll soon be where I am:

you’ll soon be moving up,

for the highest here is me!”

.

Translation from Spanish into English

© 2003, KEITH ELLIS

 

*     *     *

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

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

Santa Bárbara – Roman-Catholic saint, syncretized into

Santería, a Caribbean religion combining West-African and

Christian beliefs;  practised in Cuba.

Changó – Yoruba-African God of fire, thunder and lightning

Don – prefix of Spanish nobility

Bondó – 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

_____

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150 other followers