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The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
November 23, 2015

¡Bienvenidos a Cuba Vibra!


Cuba Vibra! is a spirited extravaganza of dance and music, and the superb dancers of Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba (LADC) tell stories through traditional Cuban dance styles—cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, conga, bolero—all backed by a big band and lyrics sung in Spanish. When you come to see Cuba Vibra!, you'll find in your New Vic Bill a list of the dance and musical numbers, called a set list, along with summaries of each song's choreographed story. But unless you understand Spanish, you may still wonder how the lyrics of the songs relate to the stories you're seeing unfold onstage.

So let's take a look at some of the lyrics from the show, along with the stories that Lizt Alfonso has choreographed, and shed some light on the connections. Spanish lyrics will appear on the left, and their English translations on the right!

Música y Estrellas

The opening number of Cuba Vibra! features the entire ensemble in a celebratory welcome. You'll hear the singers repeat the the song's title numerous times, Música y Estrellas—Music and Stars. Music, yes. But what stars? Where? The rest of the lyrics shed some light on this stellar mystery, and the full version of the song—performed by LADC in their musical Amigas—features a narrator:
 
Música y Estrellas
Tu programa va a empezar
Te traigo música y estrellas

Narrator:
Muy buenas noches, señoras y señores.
Bienvenidos a esta emición especial de su
programa favorito de la televisión cubana,
Musica y Estrellas.
Music and Stars
Your program is about to begin
I'm bringing you music and stars

Narrator: 
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to this special broadcast of your
favorite Cuban television program,
Music and Stars.

Mystery solved! Música y Estrellas was a iconic television program in Cuba during the 1960s and early 1970s. A musical variety show in the vein of The Ed Sullivan Show, it featured both musical newcomers and established musical celebrities—stars!—debuting new music and dancing to the popular rhythms of the day. Cuba Vibra! is a similar medley of celebrated music and dance, and so its opening number pays tribute to its spiritual predecessor from Cuban television.

Té Bailable

The setting for Té Bailable (Danceable Tea) is an afternoon tea party in the late 1950s, which is how you'll find it listed in your New Vic Bill. The music compels the young ladies in attendance to dance, and a young man soon joins them; but what does the music have to say?
 
Soy un hombre presumido, vanidoso, peculiar.
Tengo un andar que sofoca,
Que a las mujeres las vuelve locas.
I'm a boastful, vain, peculiar man.
I have a walk that takes [their] breath away,
That drives the ladies crazy.

As it turns out, the young man who joins them is a bit full of himself! Though they do seem a bit distracted by his dancing.

Quizás

The tea party comes to an end, and the young people begin looking for romance! The course of true love never did run smooth, though—the music clues us into their frustrations and fickle hearts. Quizás, Spanish for Perhaps, is a song about the mixed messages and fear of commitment that young people in love are sometimes guilty of.
 
Siempre que te pregunto,
"¿Qué, cuándo, cómo y dónde?" 
Tú siempre me respondes,
"Quizás, quizás, quizás..."

Y así pasan los días,
Y yo, desesperando,
Y tú, tú contestando, 
"Quizás, quizás, quizás..."
I'm always asking you,
"What? When? How and where?"
You always answer me,
"Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps..."

And so the days pass,
Me losing hope,
And you, you answering, 
"Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...."

You may have heard the English version of this song before, made famous by Desi Arnaz and, later, Doris Day; but the lyrics to that version are not a direct translation. Check out a comparison here, and listen for the final chorus of the song, which LADC's vocalist sings in English!

Espiritualidad

This musical number, Espiritualidad (Spirituality) features a mystical ceremony. You will hear music with lyrics—the song Ayyaba by Carlos Alfonso and the Eme Alfonso Quartet—but the lyrics are not in Spanish. They are in Lucumí, an Afro-Cuban dialect of the West African Yorùbá language. In Cuba, and in parts of the southern United States, this language is not widely spoken. Rather, it's used only in the rituals of Santería, the set of mystical religious practices that combine Catholicism with West African Yorùbá traditions. What you're seeing and hearing onstage in Espiritualidad is a Santería ritual!

El Vecindario

When the rumba is danced at community gatherings or in the streets, it's often called a rumbón. In El Vecindario, or Neighborhood, a community of dancers and musicians gathers onstage for a fiesta. The rumbón begins and the sound of the drums takes over. Rhythms from other countries, like swing and rock 'n' roll, are blended with traditional Cuban beats, and one young man comes onstage to declare his love for a girl named Regla.
 
Oye, Regla! En este día te canto.
No me importa lo que digan,
Ni lo que estén comentando.
A esta mujer le canto porque enamorado estoy!

Ay! Si yo no quiero tanto,
Con el corazón tú sabes que te canto.
Listen, Regla! Today I sing to you.
It doesn't matter to me what they say,
Nor what they might be talking about.
I sing to this woman because I'm in love!

Oh, if I don't love so much [as you might like],
Know that I'm singing to you with my heart.

In front of the whole neighborhood, this young man is declaring his love in song, and he doesn't care what anyone thinks. He wants Regla to know that his feelings are so honest that, not only has he been moved to song, but that he's willing to risk the embarrassment of singing in public. He really has nothing to worry about—his singing is great!

Bésame Mucho

After the neighborhood party, two young ladies try to capture the attention of the man of their dreams. It's a struggle, and only one will triumph! The song choice here is one of the most famous Spanish-language songs ever written—Bésame Mucho
 
Bésame, bésame mucho,
Como si fuera esta noche
La última vez.
Bésame, bésame mucho,
Que tengo miedo a perderte,
Perderte después.

Quiero tenerte muy cerca,
Mirarme en tus ojos,
Verte junto a mí.
Piensa que tal vez mañana
Yo ya estaré lejos
Muy lejos de ti.
Kiss me, kiss me lots,
As if tonight were
The last time.
Kiss me, kiss me lots,
Because I'm afraid of losing you,
Losing you afterward.

I want to have you very close,
To look at myself in your eyes,
To see you next to me.
Just think that maybe tomorrow
I'll already be far away,
Very far away from you.

So, while the lovestruck dancers spin about onstage, the music suggests that there might be something more afoot than just a typical teenage romance. "Kiss me now, because I might not be here tomorrow!" Is it just hyperbole? Or perhaps it's foreshadowing the coming end of the Cuban Revolution? The musical numbers that follow in the second act certainly express the impact, stess and loss of wartime. Quizás, quizás, quizás.

Most of the numbers of in the second act feature no lyrics, so sit back and enjoy the music and dance. This night will be full of surprises—surprises that, in the words of the Música y Estrellas narrator, "will make you laugh, cry, remember and relive." Prepared as you are now, the wonder of Cuba Vibra! will still surprise and delight you. ¡Disfrútense todos! Enjoy.
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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