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Origins: Guantanamera

12 Sep 00 - 08:38 AM (#295581)
Subject: Looking for the history of Guantanamera
From: Little Neophyte

I have been working on the song Guantanamera. Not an easy one for me to sing because my Spanish pronounciation leaves something to be desired.
Andres (Escamillo) has been very helpful. He gave me the phonetics to the words which I am currently working on.
I am singing along with Pete Seeger's version of the song. Pete tells some of the story of Jose Martini who wrote the poem to this song. I would love to learn more about this man and the background to this song.
Would love any help as to where I would begin to look?


12 Sep 00 - 09:17 AM (#295592)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Tinker

Pete Seeger's-- Where Have All the Flower's Gone: A Musical Autobiography @1993,1997 Pete gives a concise history of both Marti's words and Julian Orbon's setting it to a well-known melody.Pete's own introduction to the song and subsequent popularity are reviewed as well. This ia a great book to begin background information on many many of Pete's songs. It's available from Sing Out Corporation 610-865-5366 or try at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles Link. I think mine came from Barnes and Noble.

12 Sep 00 - 10:29 AM (#295626)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Little Neophyte

Oh thanks guys, this is really helpful


12 Sep 00 - 11:09 AM (#295659)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: M.Ted

My little bit--Cesare Romero was one of Marte's grandchildren.

12 Sep 00 - 11:33 AM (#295679)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: GUEST,Sailor Dan at work

Bonnie darling, It isnt the story of Jose Martini its the story of Jose Marti, Martini has olives for eyes and is purely drunkable.

Sailor DAn

12 Sep 00 - 10:28 PM (#296135)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Little Neophyte

Good point Daniel
You know, english has been one of my greatest challenges. Thank goodness people can get the drift of what I am trying to say.


12 Sep 00 - 11:19 PM (#296173)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Escamillo

Even better, José Martí :)

(For the accents, try configuring your keyboard to English International, then type the accent and then the vowel, for example "´" and then "a" will give "á". If you need the ñ, type Alt 164 )

13 Sep 00 - 10:57 AM (#296403)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Ferrara

Escamillo thanks for the keyboard tip. cool.

BBonnie, thanks for reminding me of the song. As soon as I saw the name of the thread, the song started running through my head again. Hadn't thought of it in years (decades?)

Anyone know any of the pre-Marti' words? (Escamillo as you see I haven't tried the keyboard re-configuration trick yet.)

13 Sep 00 - 11:03 AM (#296406)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam

Escamillo; I mucho yer grasias for the the info on the reconfiguring of the keyboard. Hell man, I am lucky I can get it out in english without burning up the darn crt.

Sailor DAn ;>(Grinnin)

13 Sep 00 - 06:28 PM (#296722)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Little Neophyte

Well guys, the more I listen to Pete Seeger's recording of this song, the easier it is getting. But it takes a lot of practice to get those words right. I mean look how I mucked up Marti and Martini.


14 Sep 00 - 12:09 AM (#296914)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Ferrara

Bonnie, I can scan it in and e-mail it to you. Just PM me if you want me to do this. ... Sorry, I just don't have time to type it in right now!

14 Sep 00 - 11:59 PM (#297809)
Subject: Lyr Add: GUANTANAMERA
From: Ferrara

Bonnie, you can bet I feel like a fool ... "I can't find the book"! -- But I can remember a couple of verses. The translation is mine. I'll make it very literal, as close to word for word as I can. Maybe someone can improve on it. I think I used to know another verse. Maybe it will come to me.

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde cresce la palma (2)
In testimonio mi quiero
Hechar mis versas del'alma

CHORUS: Guantanamera,
guajira guantanamera (2)

Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte hechar (2)
Y l'arroyo de la sierra
Me complace mas que el mar

I'm a sincere (honest?) man
From where the palm tree grows (2)
In witness, I wish
To make my verses from my soul

CHORUS: Girl of Guantanamo,
Country (peasant) girl of Guantanamo....

With the poor of the earth
I wish to make my fate (throw in my lot, etc.)
And the arroyo of the mountains
Pleases me more than the sea
... I always took this last bit to mean
that he preferred the humble to the grand...

...Sorry that's all I remember right now.
Rita Ferrara

p.s. Today's my day to get to translate things. (See Italians... thread.) Very satisfying. Otherwise a useless talent.

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 3-Sep-02.

15 Sep 00 - 12:09 AM (#297816)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Rick Fielding

What a wonderful song. Saw a program on TV a few nights ago dealing with the song, and guess what? They called it a "folk song with constantly changing words". Not one mention of Pete Seeger and not even a mention of Marti! Both were Communists so I guess the media is still scared. A translation of one of Marti's lines goes:

"And with the poor of this world, I cast my lot"


15 Sep 00 - 12:13 PM (#297945)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Mark Clark

Bonie, Thanks for starting this thread. I've been in the audience many times as Pete sang "Guantanamera" and I've always loved it. It's one of those songs that is only enhanced with a couple of thousand people singing along. I hope you'll bring it to a HearMe session when I'm there (which hasn't been very much lately) I'd love to hear you do it.

      - Mark

15 Sep 00 - 02:25 PM (#298068)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Little Neophyte

Rita, thanks for all your efforts

Mark, I'm getting there. Rick gave me the chords and the beat, now I've got Andres coaching me with the words.
Eventually I will have it down pat, I hope.

How do you configure the keyboard to English International?


15 Sep 00 - 06:36 PM (#298265)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Ferrara

How about typing in the rest of the words?

16 Sep 00 - 04:42 PM (#298796)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Looking for the history of Guantanam
From: Escamillo

Somewhere in some thread we posted the lyrics for 5 or 6 verses and their phonetics. I'll look for them tonight.

28 Jan 05 - 12:28 AM (#1390927)
Subject: RE: Origins: Looking for the history of Guantanamera
From: GUEST,Another Bonnie

I too am trying to learn the spanish words to Guantanamera and would love to have the phonetic spellings.
Another Bonnie

10 Mar 06 - 11:15 AM (#1690058)
Subject: RE: Origins: Looking for the history of Guantanamera
From: Mr Happy

song about a girl from Guantanamo Bay - '..look what they've done to my song'!


29 Apr 07 - 05:45 PM (#2038953)
Subject: RE: Help: quantanamera
From: Azizi

That's a good one bubblyrat!


Here's an excerpt from

"The song used as social "newspaper"
Given the song's musical structure, which fits A-B-A-B (sometimes A-B-B-A) octosyllabic verses, the Guantanamera lent itself from the beginning to impromptu verses, improvised on the spot, similar to what happens with the Mexican folk classic, "La Bamba". Fernández's first use of the song was precisely this; he would comment on daily events on his radio program by adapting them to the song's melody, and then using the song as a show closer. Through this use, the Guantanamera became a popular vehicle for romantic, patriotic, humorous, or social commentary lyrics, in Cuba and elsewhere in the Spanish speaking world.

Adaptation from the "Versos Sencillos" by José Martí
The better known "official" lyrics are based on the first verse of the first poem of the collection "Versos Sencillos" (Simple Verses) by Cuban nationalist poet and independence hero José Martí, as adapted by Julián Orbón. Word has it that Orbón considered Martí's poems as fitting, and thus dignifying, to such a popular song. Given Martí's significance to the Cuban people, the use of his poem in the song virtually elevated it to unofficial anthem status in the country.

Ambiguity in the song
In the original lyrics, the author referred to a "guajira guantanamera" (a peasant girl from Guantánamo), but since the song itself is structured as a guajira (the Cuban rhythm, named after Cuban peasants), some people (erroneously) think that the chorus refers to the song itself (or, rather, its rhythmic structure), and not to an individual. In other words, the words are interpreted as an introduction to a "guajira, Guantánamo-style". This has essentially guaranteed that the chorus' lyrics still be used to this day, as evidenced by their use along with the (seemingly) unrelated Martí verses"...

30 Apr 07 - 05:07 PM (#2039745)
Subject: RE: Help: quantanamera
From: Wesley S


Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The Sandpipers were a male vocal trio that recorded a handful of easy listening pop hits in the mid-'60s. The group was distinguished by its light, breezy harmonies, which floated over delicate, breezy string arrangements, as well as the occasional appearance of a wordless female backing vocalist who drifted in and out of the music. Though they didn't manage to have a long, sustained career, the group did have one Top Ten hit with "Guantanamera" in 1966.

Originally, the Sandpipers were known as the Four Seasons. The three members — Jim Brady, Mike Piano, and Richard Shoff — were part of the Californian Mitchell Boys Choir before they formed their own group. Shortly after their formation, they learned that there was a New York group using the name the Four Seasons, so they changed their name to the Grads. As the Grads, they cut a handful of singles, which helped the group secure a residency at a Lake Tahoe nightclub.

After the Grads had been performing in Lake Tahoe for a while, a friend of the group introduced them to trumpeter Herb Alpert, who ran his own record label, A&M. Impressed, he signed the group to a record contract. A&M released a handful of singles by the Grads before the trio changed its name to the Sandpipers. None of the singles the group released were successful until their producer, Tommy LiPuma, recommended that they record a South American folk song called "Guantanamera." Once "Guantanamera" was released in 1966, it became a major hit, reaching the Top Ten in both the United States and Britain.

The Sandpipers managed to follow "Guantanamera" with several minor hits, including versions of "Louie Louie" and "Kumbaya." During this time, the group had taken to recording and performing with a supporting female vocalist named Pamela Ramcier. Ramcier contributed ethereal, wordless vocals to the group. Her vocals never acted as harmonies to the group's singing; they functioned in a supporting role, much like the strings that comprised the band's instrumental backing. Although Ramcier was never credited on the albums and was always shrouded in shadows during concerts — though her hip, mod outfits complete with miniskirts and go-go boots often made her more noticeable than the actual Sandpipers — her voice was one of the most distinctive elements of the group's music.

In 1970, they contributed songs to The Sterile Cuckoo ("Come Saturday Morning") and Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Though the Sandpipers continued to record into the '70s, their audience diminished with each successive year. After spending five years without any chart success, the group disbanded in the mid-'70s.

09 Feb 09 - 05:15 PM (#2562164)
Subject: RE: Origins: Guantanamera
From: GUEST,Daniel

Who recorded or sang the original "Guantanamera" when it became a hit?

09 Feb 09 - 05:31 PM (#2562179)
Subject: RE: Origins: Guantanamera
From: GUEST,Ken Brock

The Sandpipers had the hit. It's also on one of the Weavers 1963 reunion albums on Vanguard.

17 Oct 12 - 08:48 AM (#3421240)
Subject: RE: Help: quantanamera? / Guantanamera
From: GUEST,999

"This started out as a poem written in 1899 by Cuban writer Jose Marti. The poem is about a girl from Guantanamo and was written from the point of view of a Cuban revolutionary. In the early 1960s Pete Seeger heard Hector Angulo singing a Cuban folk song using Marti's words based on a traditional melody adapted by bandleader Joseito Fernandez. This was the time of the Cuban missile crisis and the peace activist Seeger decided to adapt it in honor of Marti. He combined Marti's original Spanish with spoken English and made it into a song for the peace movement.

In 1966, a Los Angeles folk trio called The Sandpipers recorded a version of this that hit #7 in the UK and #9 in the US. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
The song is made of 2 parts which do not have any relation whatsoever:
Part 1 - In the 19th century, an anonymous popular song circulates with the words "guarija guantanamera," which means peasant-woman from Guantanamo. It was collected and arranged in 1932 by Joseito Fernandez, who made it the hallmark of his orchestra and popularized it as a dance called "Guajira-son," which he used in place of "Bolero" in closing every ball. "La Guajira is therefore the name of a dance too.

Part 2 - It's not before 1958 that Julian Orbon combined this popular refrain with some quatrains taken at random from the immense poem Versos Sencillos (simple verses) by Jose Marti. It commences with, "Yo soy un ombre sincero," but you have to wait for hundreds of verses before finding: "Con los pobres de la tierra." At last words well in line with the acclaimed Seeger -Guthrie protest song style. Marti never mentioned any Guajira from Guantanamo in those verses. As in many popular songs, you can't find any logical link between the verses and the refrain. (thanks, Denis - Paris, France)"


10 Jun 22 - 11:28 PM (#4143992)
Subject: RE: Origins: Guantanamera
From: Joe Offer

Joe - do cleanup