Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY - A La Memoria del Muerto

When Fuentes released Fruko's second album, A La Memoria del Muerto (In Memoriam), in 1972, the lead singer was Edulfamid Molina Diaz. A tall, skinny man, Edulfamid became known for his great voice, reminiscent of the best Cuban singers, and for his peculiar dancing style. He would forever be remembered as Piper Pimienta.

He sang many of Fruko's Salsa hits, and was part of several different bands. Ironically, the words he sang in the title song of A La Memoria del Muerto would be used during his own funeral. Tragedy had been chasing him around Colombia. In the 80s his son was killed during a shooting, and in 1991 his house went up in flames with all his music inside forcing him to cancel concerts. In June 1998, Piper was assassinated in front of his home in Cali. He had just won a civil lawsuit over royalties.

But, as he sang: "On the day I die, I don't want cryings or rosaries. . . I just want my friends to dance in my memory. . . ."

So here it is,

A La Memoria del Muerto by Fruko y Sus Tesos. Piper Pimienta on vocals:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Myths for Monday -- Los Tunjitos

Today's myth takes us to the department of Tolima. However, before we can get to the myth, we need a brief history lesson. So, let's go back to the 1500's..............

Not many years following the discovery of Bogota, the original conquistador of the area, Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, set out to explore the area of what is today known as Tolima. There he found three fierce groups of natives: the Coyaimas, the Natagaimas, and the Pijao. Of the three, the Pijaos stood out for their brutality. They loved to mark their paths with the bones of their enemies. The Pijaos (now extinct) were a tough group to conquer -- I could write a series on these guys. Suffice it to say, they left a trail of death and destruction in their wake.

These Indigenous groups (and the Muisca) buried small dolls, made of pure gold, with their dead -- called Tunjos. It is from this tradition, that we get today's myth -- Los Tunjitos. This is a goody for those wanting to get their kids to stay in bed -- ok just kidding let's not cause them psychological damage -- here goes:
Legend has it that at dusk, these little guys sneak out of the grave and begin to wander. Their favorite hangout is near small streams or creeks. There they either cry a horrible, other worldly, scary cry, or laugh with a terribly, frightening, other worldly laugh. They are the greatest fear of rural children as many a child is told that if they don't stay in bed, the Tunjitos will get them.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday's Wonders: DIABOLINES

DIABOLINES -- there is probably not a person from Sucre that has not purchased these little treats. These are delicious toasted cheese snacks that are famous in the region. Made from Tapioca flour, eggs, salty cheese, milk, salt and butter. They are worth a taste, albeit a small one if you want to watch your figure.

Here is a website with a recipe. Unfortunately, it is for making a HUGE batch, and unfortunately I do not have access to salty cheese, so I did not try to reduce the amount and make it myself. But if you are interested, a libra or pound in Colombia is equal to 500 grams, not the same as a US pound.
If anyone attempts this recipe, let me know how it turns out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- Fruko's First Album

In 1968, Julio Ernesto Estrada, Fruko, toured New York as the percussionist for the Corraleros de Majagual. He was already curious about Salsa music, and his intrest became cemented here as he met and performed next to the big names of the new genre: Tito Puente, Richie Ray, Bobbie Cruz, Willie Colón, Hector Lavoe, and the Ray Barreto Band.

As Fruko reminisced during his interview with La W Radio Station in Medellín, it was during one of these trips to New York that on one occasion a television hostess asked him on camera, if he and his band were bringing "la hierbita" from Colombia. This was a deliberate pun. The Corraleros had a hit song called "La Hierbita" or Yierbita (grass, lawn). But "yierbita" was also a euphemism for a less innocuous, yet very popular plant smoked during the sixties. The song was a catchy clean tune. I guess "quiero sentarme contigo en la hierbita, en la hierbita, en la hierbita. . . ." (I want to sit with you on the grass. . . .) can be construed in a number of ways. Colombia was already developing a reputation, and not only as a country with great music.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise then that after creating his own band, Fruko y Sus Tesos (Fruko and His Tough Guys) and releasing their first Salsa album in 1970, Tesura (Toughness) he decided to pose for the cover looking like a thug with a gun hanging from his neck. This is how Colombia met Salsa music. Tesura only sold about 400 copies, but Fruko's new sound still managed to generate great interest. The tough guy look was also keeping in style with what Willie Colón had been doing in New York.

Here are two samples: The infamous La Hierbita by Los Corraleros de Majagual

and from the album Tesura, Improvisando by Fruko y Sus Tesos

Monday, September 19, 2011

Myths for Monday -- El encanto de la ciénega de Pajaral

In the Department of Sucre, you will find several swamps. Among them is the Pajaral swamp. It is known as the Enchanted Swamp.

See it on a map here:

In the rainy summers, the waters of the swamp become deep and turbulent. On those hot, wet summer days. Strange things have reportedly happened in the Enchanted Swamp.

First, years ago, in the waters of the swamp, there would appear a giant catfish. It was so large, that to catch it became the goal of many a fisherman. In fact, men came from all over for a chance to catch the giant fish. But, no one could harpoon it. Even a well aimed harpoon would be deflected. The fish was thought to be enchanted.

Next, one particular August, years ago, both a cow and a pig were seen standing in the middle of the swamp, as if they were dry land and not in the middle of a deep swamp.

Finally, a man by the name of Joselito Álvarez, swears that while fishing in the swamp early one morning, he heard the sound of someone else casting in their net. When he turned to see who else was in the swamp, he saw only a human skeleton standing near him. He became so afraid that he began to run and got lost in the swamp. He was lost for two days before he was found walking around in a daze.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Leonel Alvarez? Can He Do IT?

Recently, Colombia's Coach for the national soccer team resigned in disgrace. Last week, a new coach was named == Leonel Alvarez. Learn more about him here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday's Wonders: Caldo de Papas

In Santander, as well as in other departments, this breakfast treat is very popular. Give it a try.

Caldo de Papas

Step #1 --Place the following ingredients in a pot.

8 cups water
3-4 whole green onions with the roots and green stem chopped off

AND one or the other of the following:

3-4 ribs with rib meat OR 3-4 chicken legs with skin.

Step #2 -- BOIL these three ingredients until you have a great broth. Remove the meat/bones (use these in another recipe as typically the meat is not served with the soup).

Step #3 -- ADD:

Several peeled potatoes sliced in 4-6 lengthwise slices. (I prefer Yukon Gold which when peeled are about fist size – in this case I add about 5 potatoes).

1 teaspoon of salt -- or salt to taste

Step #4 -- BOIL until the potatoes are soft and begin to disintegrate. Add more salt if necessary.

Step #5 -- SEPARATELY, mix about

1 teaspoon of FINELY chopped green onion with
½ teaspoon of FINELY chopped cilantro

for each serving bowl you plan to fill with the Potato Broth. Place the onion cilantro mixture in the bottom of each individual serving bowl and then serve the broth and a few potatoes in each bowl.

DELICIOUS! This is one of my favorite Colombian breakfasts.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- A Living Legend

In March 2011, in a copy cat show that the Radio Station La W dares to call Salsa Con Estilo (an alleged homage to the original), the young host interviewed Julio Ernesto Estrada, Fruko, and called him "A Living Legend." That part might be true, he is a legend. And there were several things Fruko said during the interview that caught my attention because of their historical value.

Fruko said that his Great grandfather, Luis Felipe Rincón, came from Santiago de Cuba to Colombia to work on the construction of the famous Colombian railway, the Ferrocarril de Antioquia. Work on this rail began in 1874, and when it was finished in 1929, it finally linked the remote area of Antioquia with the rest of Colombia. The Ferrocarril was hailed as an engineering achievement because as the the people from Antioquia say, their mountainous terrain is only comparable to certain mountain ranges in Mars.

Fruko's great-grandfather helped build the Tunel de la Quiebra. Fruko recalls, "They started one group on one side of the mountain and one group on the other, till they finally met right in the middle. And they did it without computers!"

The tunnel links the town of Puerto Berrio with the City of Medellin. Today, the railroad carts are gone, but the entrepreneurial Paisas have adapted motorcycles which run on the rails and give tourists a taste of its 4 km of complete darkness.

Tunel de la Quiebra - Cisneros

Fruko also said that his musical genome carries Cuban and African genes. "Even as a kid, I wanted to play this happy music", he said. And then he revealed another secret to his musical genome: It was his uncle, Jaime Rincón, who wrote a song, an incredibly embarrassingly Colombian song, called La Cuchilla. And although simply knowing this song shows my social class, I couldn't resist! Here it is,

by Las Hermanas Calle: La Cuchilla.

Why is this so bad? Well, cover your kids' ears and I will tell you. No, I better not. They are just a series of gruesome tongue in cheek threats on an estranged lover's life, and the music reeks of cheap pub . . . but anyone who has taken a bus ride in Colombia will recognize it.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pe5pe/2412878121/

Monday, September 12, 2011

Myths for Monday -- La Mechuda

In Santander (and also Antioquia), today's department, there is a myth about a woman with LONG, messy hair. She covers herself with her long hair, that reaches down to her feet. She wears a LONG dress and has, you guessed it, LONG fingernails. Her name is La Mechuda, though some do call her La Cabellona.

According to the men that have seen her, she is beautiful, with a beautiful face.

She seems to appear and disappear randomly, but always seems to be in a hurry. Those that have seen her report that it appears like she is floating.

In Santander, when she appears, it is with the distinct purpose of scaring only women.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Miss Colombia

I have to preface this with the fact that I am NOT a huge fan of beauty contests -- however, this point of view is not shared by most Colombians. Five years ago, while in Colombia for our adoption, I sat with the whole family and watched the Miss Colombia spectacle. Anyway, for those of you dying to spend your evening watching the event, here is a preview. This is the interview with Miss Colombia.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY - The link between Salsa and Ketchup!

A few entries ago, we started heading towards the point where Salsa, Fania, and Colombia definitely intersect. We found out that if such a point actually exists, it would have to be Antonio Fuentes' music label, Fuentes. We talked about Antonio's trip to Philadelphia in the 30s, his return to Colombia, the establishment of Fuentes in Medellin in the 50s, and the creation of the Corraleros de Majagual Band. And that's where life happened and we got interrupted.

Well, the Corraleros the Majagual began touring around Colombia and abroad. By 1967, when they toured Venezuela, one of the kids who used to carry instruments and run other errands for the band, had become their new timbalero or percussionist. The kid was sixteen years-old and his name was Julio Ernesto Estrada. Julio's face and especially the gap between his two big front teeth seemed to resemble the character used in the commercials of a brand of ketchup in Colombia at the time, Salsa de Tomate Fruco. Faithful to our Colombian tradition of complete disregard for political correctness, Fruko, became Julio's name from then on.

And now you see where we are headed with all this. Yes, Fruko brought to the band a new sound, a sound that was already floating around in New York, the sound of Salsa music. And Colombia was fertile ground for this budding genre. With ports over both the Pacific and the Atlantic, the country had already harbored African and Cuban rhythms such as Son Muntuno and Charanga from which Salsa originates. Fruko and Fuentes took it to the next level.

Here's a song from Fruko y Sus Tesos' album "El Violento" (1973), Salsa Na Ma (Salsa Nada Más, or Nothing But Salsa). A raw jam, this song features "Tomate" Mesa on piano and organ, Fruko on bass and persussion, and the background voice of Joe Arroyo.

For more on Fruko and the meaning of SUS TESOS, read this blast from the past: