Check out this circa 1999 wonderful video by the great Cuban group Bamboleo. The song is Ya No Hace Falta (my screwed up sense of Spanish translates this as “There’s no need now” — somebody correct me if I’m wrong). The singer is the lovely contra alto Vania Borges, backed up by Yordamis Megret (who now lives and works in New York City). The band leader is Lazaro Valdés. Vania holds a degree in oboe education and Yordamis holds a degree in guitar performance, both from the prestigious Cuban conservatory, Escuela Nacional de las Artes (ENA). I think Lazarito graduated from ENA too. This shows the level of competence of Cuban musicians. This is popular dance music in Cuba, but its performed by people with real depth and musical sophistication. Compare this with the trash that is often popular here…with singers who can’t sing, drum machines, etc. Cuba has a lot of problems, but production of high quality music is not one of them.
The basic tenor of the song is like the video. Vania’s words are basically telling her ex lover to beat it, scram, get lost, and don’t ever come back. My Spanish isn’t good enough to figure this out, but back in my old apartment, a Nicaraguan maintenance guy was fixing my air condition while I had this song on the stereo, and he started laughing and telling me, “Man, she’s telling off someone really good!” Also, there is the coro near the end that goes (I hope I get this right): “Cojel (cohel?) caminito derechito papito!” My Cuban friend explained that the multiple dimnutives suggests a sense of sarcasm…literally its like “take that straight shorcut, little daddy.” He said that its an expression that someone (like a pissed off cop) may tell you if he’s about to crack your skull open. So it fits the song. I always love it when a Cuban person explains what the words mean. You don’t really have to understand the lyrics to appreciate the composition, however. It is beautiful in the abstract.
In my opinion, Bamboleo is about as good as it gets in modern Cuban music. My wife and I saw them at Fiesta Latina in Columbus, Ohio in 2002. A real treat.