Music and Photography

Atahualpa Yupanqui and “El Arriero”

Pre-Cordillera Sunburst. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017
Pre-Cordillera Sunburst. Mendoza, Argentina, 2017

 

Atahualpa Yupanqui (“ahtah-WALL-pah   you-Pan-key”) was arguably the most important figure in the history of Argentine folklore music. You might think of this genre as Argentine “country music” but is more than that, being a form of yearning poetry when at its finest. On oral tradition, it has its original roots in indigenous and afro-hispanic colonial times, thereafter being filtered through the trials and tragedies of the gaucho experience.

I’m not completely sure why, but it was this late-afternoon cloud and sunburst over the pre-Cordillera above Mendoza that made me think of him and his music…his simple but lyrical refrains so very much tied to the expansive and often harsh landscape of the Argentine desert and pampas.

Atahualpa was of an earlier generation (b.1908 – d.1992), so he might best be considered a sort of “founding father” of this música folclórica argentina–much like Bill Monroe is considered by many to be the patriarch for bluegrass in the U.S. of A.

To animate my cloud-landscape photograph above, here is one Atahualpa example, along with my attempted translation of the essence (not the literal meaning) of the lyrics, and a music video:

El arriero (The gaucho)

En las arenas bailan los remolinos, (In the dry sands the dust devils dance,)
El sol juega en el brillo del pedregal, (The hot sun plays in the shimmer of the rocky ground,)
Y prendido a la magia de los caminos, (And bewitched by the magic of the trails,)
El arriero va, el arriero va. (The gaucho rides, the gaucho rides.)

Es bandera de niebla su poncho al viento, (His poncho is a ghost banner in the wind,)
Lo saludan las flautas del pajonal, (The waving grasses of the prairie greet him,)
Y apurando a la tropa por esos cerros, (And hurrying his herd through the hills,)
El arriero va, el arriero va. (The gaucho rides, the gaucho rides.)

Las penas y las vaquitas, (His sorrows and the little cows,)
Se van por la misma senda, (They travel the same path,)
Las penas y las vaquitas, (His sorrows and the little cows,)
Se van por la misma senda, (They travel the same path,)
Las penas son de nosotros, (The sorrows are for him,)
Las vaquitas son ajenas, (The cows are for others,)
Las penas son de nosotros, (The sorrows are for him,)
Las vaquitas son ajenas… (The cows are for others…)

[NOTE: An “arriero” is often translated as a mule driver or drover, but I think “gaucho” works better in this context and it also hits the ears of the English speaker nicely, thus imbuing the song with the necessary Argentine flavor. This is just one of several liberties I have taken in the translation to try to communicate the spirit of the poem/song rather than a literal, but necessarily cumbersome, translation. Can you find my other major deviations from the purely literal?]

Also, what I have in bold print is a clear example of the author’s socialist tendencies and seems to be an obvious criticism of the political system of the time (1940s). Indeed, the words are still relevant today with extreme inequality in wealth distribution evident in many of the world’s countries, including our own.]

And, finally, the music video so you can hear Don Ata’s guitar and voice:

Miles From Nowhere

Mile 13 on Navajo Land. Monument Valley, Utah, 2017
Mile 13 on Navajo Land. Monument Valley, Utah, 2017

 

“Miles from nowhere…I think I’ll take my time…

Miles from nowhere, not a soul in sight…

Oh yeah, but it’s alright…”  

Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam)

Back in the day, this classic tune (1970 release) was way overused as musical accompaniment to our hiking and climbing slide shows.

Overused or not, I still like it.

I would argue, though, that when you are in a place like the one above that you are not at all “miles from nowhere”. No, not at all. In fact, in these places, you are exactly in the middle of everything that is truly important in this world.

I would even add that if you ever happen to find yourself at the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 42nd Street in New York City, then–in many respects–you truly are “miles from nowhere”.

What Is The Proper Color For Flowers?

The Red Flower. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
The Red Flower. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one…

 

So…How do you see all the many flowers that surround us this colorful spring?

For a unique duet version of the complete song, try this exceptional (but grainy) video from 1978 featuring Harry Chapin with none other than a very young Chevy Chase:

Morning Has Broken

Pathway. Louisville, Colorado, 2015
Pathway. Louisville, Colorado, 2015

 

Morning Has Broken by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

 

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

 

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

 
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

 

You can hear Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) singing this song in a 1976 concert HERE.

A New Album Release (Glass House)

It’s called Glass House by Indigo People and it’s a pretty darn cool, low-budget, high-quality, home-made, music project. It’s sort of surreal, avant-guarde, modernist…yet thoughtfully simple. Original and intriguing. (Or, maybe dialed, bodacious, and sick, to use a few more modern adjectives.)

The driving force behind it’s production is CW, a cheerful young man we have had the pure pleasure to work with at our weekly Monday Photography Group (Attention Homes).

If this new release (his third) is any indication, this kid is in for a bright future.

You can check it out, and sample the tracks, HERE. Feel fully free to donate some cash to the artists involved–just click the BUY NOW button at that link and pick your price.

And, for the record (so to speak)…although CW kindly credited Dana Bove and me for the photography on the album cover (below), it was actually CW’s image–we just did a few minutes of post-processing.

Glasshouse EP cover art

Leavin’ On a Jet Plane

 

Contrail and Crescent Moon. Colorado, 2015
Contrail and Crescent Moon. Colorado, 2015

I’m leavin’, on a jet plane

Don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

–John Denver, 1966 (IMHO, the best recording was actually by Peter Paul, and Mary)

In an ironic note, John Denver eventually died in an aviation accident–though not in a jet plane…something about not being able to easily switch between fuel tanks, thus running out of gas prematurely.