The Puerto Rican Christmas songbook is an inexhaustible treasure of styles and folkloric art forms that has set the musical framework of the traditions inherited from our ancestors over the course of a century. ...MORE >
The Puerto Rican Christmas songbook is an inexhaustible treasure of styles and folkloric art forms that has set the musical framework of the traditions inherited from our ancestors over the course of a century. The result has been a rich and diverse cultural expression that has arrived from the coastal reedbeds and coffee plantations in the Puerto Rican mountains arrived to the Latino neighborhood in New York and from there made its way to the Hispanic communities in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Orlando, thanks to the Puerto Rican immigrants whose luggage also included the cuatro, the tiple and the bordonúa; the panderos of plena; the barriles of bomba and the litanies to the Virgin of the Rosary.
In spite of their material poverty, the quality of life of the average boricua was rich in feeling. His (or her) lively, festive spirit is one of a kind, and at Christmastime, in a very unique way, it is manifested in customs like the parrandas or asaltos navideños and with the preparations of delicious concoctions like the lechón asado a la varita (roast pig), las morcillas (blood sausage), rice with pigeon peas, cakes, and sugar cane rum, or pitorro.
The identity of the Puerto Rican diaspora that arrived to New York in the postwar period was so strong that even in Japan the cuatro of Yomo Toro and the jibara tones of Ramito resonated there.
There is no other country that celebrates Christmas with the jubilation, passion, and enthusiasm of the Puerto Rican people, in whom the spirituality of the Spanish, the cadence of the Africans and the sentiment of pre-Colombian indigenous Taíno are so intricately combined.
The repertoire of this collection of successes, which led me to baptize it with the title Rumbón Navideño, is the best example. Without the influence of authors like Flor Morales Ramos, Chuíto el de Bayamón, Bobby Capó, Claudio Ferrer, Tite Curet and others, the Christmas cultural narrative would not exist.
They contribute the raw material with eloquence because they live and document their experiences in their compositions. The orchestras of Willie Colón, Richie Ray, Sonora Ponceña, Impacto Crea and Pete Rodríguez take charge of refining the creative process upon fusioning the aguinaldo, the seis chorreao, the plena, and the bomba with salsa.
It should not surprise anyone that Héctor Lavoe would inspire himself with the decimilla of the Ramito’s aguinaldo “Patria y Amor” and, with the pretext of an urgent song for Borinquen (Puerto Rico), evokes the beloved homeland with nostalgia, the kindness of its people and its natural beauty, while swearing that he will forever sing to the Puerto Rican Nation from beyond in another life. On a more humorous note, Chuíto, with the accompaniment of the Johnny El Bravo orchestra, proclaims that “rum and cold beer [will be had by all] because in Bayamón, mon, it rains all day” while Ismael Rivera, in the work of Bobby Capó, narrates that his “Tía María kept lots of pitorro [sugar cane rum] in the ramas under the bed.”
The humorous theme is another characteristic of the Christmas repertoire cultivated in Borinquen in the 20th century. Ramito sings that at Christmastime one has to get rid of the “ugly ones,” referring to a number of his colleagues in the musical world.
This collection could not be complete without the bolero “Noche De Paz”, performed by Santitos Colón with a larger string arrangement by the Argentine, Jorge Calandrelli.
Then, after the solemn pause of Santitos, the rumbón continues with the Christmas salsa of Willie and Héctor Lavoe, Richie & Bobby, Cheo Feliciano, Cortijo, Impacto Crea, Pete Rodriguez (who incorporates into the boogaloo the piece “De La Montaña Venimos” by Bobby Capó) and Mon Rivera.
The parrandón awakens Pinki; on Christmas Eve, Cheo and Tite affirm that they will live it up while Ismael Miranda along with Impacto Crea give life to the verses that Chalina Alvarado inspired in the hospitality and nobility of the Puerto Rican jíbaro. Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!