Tune of the Day: La Bamba
“La Bamba” is a Mexican folk song, originally from the state of Veracruz, best known from a 1958 adaptation by Ritchie Valens, a top 40 hit in the U.S. charts and one of early rock and roll's best-known songs.
The song features a traditional mambo Latin rhythm, strongly influenced by Spanish flamenco. Lyrics can vary greatly vary, as performers often improvise verses while performing. The traditional aspect of “La Bamba”, however, lies in the tune itself, which remains the same through all versions. The name of the dance, which has no direct English translation, is presumably connected with the Spanish verb bambolear, meaning “to shake” or “to stomp”.
The traditional “La Bamba” was often played during weddings in Veracruz, where the bride and groom performed the accompanying dance. Today this wedding tradition is mostly lost, but the dance survives through the popularity of ballet folklórico (“folkloric dance”). The dance is performed in much the same way, displaying the newly-wed couple's unity through the performance of complicated, delicate steps in unison as well as through creation of a bow from a listón, a long red ribbon, using only their feet.