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    Land of winds > Music > Lyrics | Issue 12 (Nov.-Dec.2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Coplas of Afro-Bolivian saya


Coplas of the Afro-Bolivian saya

The traditional Afro-Bolivian saya is played on three cajas or tambores (drums) plus the cuancha or güiro. This percussion base is backed by vocal samples performing estribillos (chorus) and coplas (poetic popular stanzas); the former usually being fixed traditional structured sung by the community while the latter are improvised passages performed by soloists.

All Afro-Bolivian sayas start with the same stanza, an introductory pattern dedicated to "Tata Belzu" (Manuel Isidoro Belzu, the president under whose rule slavery was abolished in Bolivia in 1851). Following the two first verses, a chorus is sung to whatever topic takes their fancy such as love, religion, tradition or history. Everybody repeats it while one singer improvises lyrics and its content is to provoke reaction from another singer and so on.

Isidoro Belzu bandera ganó,
ganó la bandera del altar mayor.

[Isidoro Belzu the flag won,
won the flag of the major altar.]

[EST] Las gotas de agua de a poquito perforan la roca.
Y a tu corazón de piedra poco a poco perforaré y un día mía serás.

[Chorus] [Water drops slowly penetrate the rock.
And your stone heart I will slowly penetrate and one day mine you will be.]

Que linda negra, te he visto vestida de blanco entero.
Se parecía a una reina que había bajado del cielo.

[What a pretty black woman, I have seen you completely dressed in white.
She looked like a queen who had come down from heaven.]

Las gotas de agua...
[Water drops...]

Quién dijo que por ser vivo, del amor me salvaría.
Aquí me tienen, hermanos, cantando versos al amor.

[Who did tell that this sharpness of mine would save me from love.
Here I am, brothers, singing verses of love.]

Las gotas de agua...
[Water drops...]

Ayer por la tarde te vi pasar, me enamoré y te seguí.
Mira, mi negrita, flor de alelí, eres tan bonita que me enloqueces.

[Yesterday evening I saw you passing by; I fell in love and followed you.
Look, my little black woman, wallflower, you are so beautiful as to make me crazy.]

[EST] De lejas tierras yo vengo a divertirme cantando
porque en el barrio en que vivo paso la vida llorando.

[Chorus] [From faraway lands I come to get fun singing
because in the neighbourhood where I live I spend my life crying.]

Negrita, no te me vayas, no me dejes aquí solo.
¿A quién voy a poder darle tanto amor que hay en mi pecho?

[Little black woman, do not leave me, do not let me here alone.
To whom will I be able to give as much love as there is in my breast?]

De lejas tierras...
[From faraway lands...]

En el cielo las estrellas y en la tierra las mujeres.
Si no te has dado cuenta, hermano, las dos cosas son bonitas...

[In the sky the stars and on the ground the women.
Even if you have not noticed it, brother, both things are pretty...]

De lejas tierras...
[From faraway lands...]

Después de quinientos años no me vayas a cambiar
el bello ritmo de saya por ritmo de caporal.

[After five hundred years do not dare to change
the beautiful rhythm of the saya for the rhythm of caporal.]

De lejas tierras...
[From faraway lands...]

Los Kjarkas están confundiendo la saya y el caporal,
lo que ahora están escuchando es saya original.

[Los Kjarkas are mixing up the saya and the caporal,
what you are now listening to is the original saya.]

Video 01. Coplas of Afro-Bolivian saya 01.
Video 02. Coplas of Afro-Bolivian saya 02.

Picture A.

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