Chan Chan

There was a time (1998?) when you’d hear the album Buena Vista Social Club all the time. If you travel along the tourist trail of Central America you will not go far without hearing it again.

The first song on the album is called Chan Chan. Here are the lyrics:

Lyrically, the song is set on the beach and revolves around two central characters called Juanica and Chan Chan.The most complete explanation says: ‘The song relates the story of a man and a woman (Chan Chan and Juanica) who are building a house, and go to the beach to get some sand. Chan Chan collects the sand and puts it on the jibe (a sieve for sand). Juanica shakes it, and to do so she shakes herself, making Chan Chan embarrassed. […] The origin of this tale is a farmer song learnt by Compay Segundo when he was twelve years old.’

The most recognizable part of the song is its chorus, whose lyrics are as follows:

De Alto Cedro voy para MarcanéLlego a Cueto voy para MayaríFrom Alto Cedro I go to MarcanéI get to Cueto, then head for Mayarí

The four mentioned locations (Alto CedroMarcanéCueto and Mayarí) are towns near each other in the Holguín Province on the east side of Cuba

I like that the song is sort of a set of directions. You can think of the song as being “here are directions to see a girl who moves her butt like a cement mixer.”

Cuba in the news again.



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