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This is the signature song of Francisco Repilado, a.k.a Compay Segundo, a classic 'son', the standard of traditional Cuban music. What sets it apart from any other 'son' is the bass line and the syncopated melodic phrasings, or 'tumbao,' an integral part of Cuban rhythm. The two central characters, 'Juanica' and 'Chan Chan,' are legends of Cuban folklore; the lyrics capture the life and culture of the 'guajiro,' or peasant of rural Cuba. Compay himself was born in such a setting, in Oriente province, which is often  referred to as the cradle and soul of Cuban music. As is commonly the case with Cuban lyrics, "Chan Chan" is a series of images without a clear narrative arc. Here, a poetic erotica is juxtaposed with-and made more poignant by-references to the back-breaking work of the sugar cane fields.

 

"Chan Chan"  Written by Francisco Repilado

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