Guantanamera is a Cuban folk song that was popularised in the 1960s by American folk singer Pete Seeger, and was a big hit for American pop trio The Sandpipers. The chorus of the song, which is the best bit for singing along (!), is “guajira guantanamera” which means “peasant girl from Guantanamo”. The verses of the song are from poems written by Cuban poet Jose Marti. Seeger provides a translation of some of the words:
I am a sincere man
From where the palm tree grows
And before dying I want
To share the verses of my soul.
My verse is light green
And it is flaming crimson
My verse is a wounded deer
Who seeks refuge on the mountain.
With the poor people of the earth
I want to share my fate
The brook of the mountains
Gives me more pleasure than the sea.
During the Easy Listening explosion of the 1970s the song became a popular standard, adding a little latin flourish to many a party/cocktail/mood music compilation. This is how I discovered the song, or at least this is how I became most familiar with it. Years of digging around in charity shop record crates have rewarded me with a collection of some of the “finest” easy listening and suburban party music that the 1970s had to offer – James Last, The Gatecrashers, Roberto Delgado, Les Reed, Bert Kaempfert. Guantanamera happens to crop up quite often.
When I saw Don McKellar’s film Last Night I was spurred on to collect specifically records featuring the song Guantanamera. In Last Night the world is about to end, and a variety of characters make preparations to meet the final moment of life on earth. The main character, played by Don McKellar, decides to meet the end while listening to the song Guantanamera, as sung by Pete Seeger! Actually I can’t think of a better song, although I would choose a more rousing version such as The Gatecrashers’ party arrangement.
I present here a continuous DJ mix of my favourite Guantanamera’s, all recorded from the original vinyl. Be ready for the end of the world!
38 mins, 192 kbps MP3 (52MB).
Credits: Wikipedia, for info about the Cuban origins and translation of the song