Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Riu Riu Chiu/Guardo Del Lobo"

Two of the facets of earlier folk music albums that I loved were the number and variety of foreign language songs, most of which were at least rooted in the traditional music of their respective countries. The leader of the pack in this regard was the Weavers, who included songs from around the world in both their recording and performing repertoires from the start to the finish of their career. Bud and Travis and the early Kingston Trio are probably in second place, with the Trio emphasizing Spanish, Mexican, and Polynesian songs but also including French, African songs from different languages, and those two odd German language numbers that never made it on to an American album until the CD re-issue era. One of the things that I missed in the later KT records as they moved from what had been at least traditionally termed "folk" to singer/songwriter and pop music was their abandonment (largely) of sea chanteys and "world" folk songs, both of which had been strong components on their early albums.

There was a risk inherent in singing songs in a non-native language, not the least of which was the necessity for at least one group member or another to learn the lyrics phonetically, even given the possibility of the other singers actually knowing the language or at least the meaning of the song. Both Bud Dashiell and Travis Edmundson were fluent in Spanish, and that fluency lent an air of authenticity to the largely Mexican songs that they recorded. Bob Shane and Dave Guard both grew up in Hawaii and attended Punahou School, where classes in Hawaiian culture were mandatory; they sang a number of Tahitian songs by ear but seemed to have known the Hawaiian songs from the inside out.

I always suspected that at least Guard and Shane knew some Spanish, and given Nick Reynolds' Coronado, CA roots (near the U.S.-Mexico border), I'd be surprised if he did not as well. Their pronunciation of the language is usually good, if not quite native quality (listen to Shane's pronunciation of "Jesus" in today's recording - it ought to be "hay-ZOOS" and not "JAY-zoos"), and their feel for the music is also good (I have in the past pointed to the distinctively Mexican flavor to the guitar work on "Deportee" and could do so on other songs like "En El Agua" and even "Coplas" as well).

But even with that, the group is taking quite a risk in recording "Guardo Del Lobo"(the correct title, according to a commenter from Spain on YouTube) because of the song's age and because it is the only number I can think of at the moment that they ever recorded a capella. The actual title of the song is from the first line, "Riu Riu Chiu," said to be Spanish nonsense syllables that attempt to replicate onomatopoeiacally the sound of a nightingale. The liner notes on Goin' Places (the KT album on which it appeared) correctly indicate that it goes back to at least the fifteenth century and is a "villancico," or religious festival song, most but not all of which are associated with Christmas. It is attributed to Catalan composer Mateo Flecha, who died eleven years before Shakespeare was born.

I always thought that the KT recording was haunting and different, and its utilization of the reverb in Capitol Studio B adds to the effect. The meaning of the lyrics, usually updated into modern Spanish, appear here with our first version from the dwsChorale [sic] - which is David W. Solomons multi-tracking himself - amazing use of technology:



The Kingston Trio's version adheres to the traditional accompaniment format of the villancico - a capella except for percussion:



That's a lot of sound coming out of three guys and a bassist playing tambourine. It's also three-part harmony throughout, with Bob Shane on a low harmony.

My favorite live performance video of the song is here, from Flauto Dolce("Sweet Flute"), a chorale group from Serbia:



The costumes may not be quite exactly right for the time, but the feminine voices and mixed chorus I find fetching.

And now two remarkably good versions from teeny-bopper pop idols from whom you'd least expect it. First - the Monkees (!):



I see a distinct KT influence here - the harmonic arrangement is almost identical.

Next, American Idol runner-up and teen heartthrob David Archuleta - not half bad for an AI contestant:



Nice to end with a bang, though - so here's the version from Kalenda Maya, a mixed voice ancient music group from Norway:



Addendum 1/09/10

I see from the comments that the "Fans Of David" site picked up this blog post, and thanks for that and stopping by. I should probably clarify that -

a) most of us over on Kingston Crossroads (the message board where I first post these blog entries) are not generally fans of American Idol and its styles of music and singing, but

b)most everyone there, including me, were very impressed with DA's treatment of this song and his vocals in general. You all are right - he's an excellent singer.

All he needs to do now is get past the AI stage and grow into his voice. He could be another Sinatra - and that's saying a lot.

16 comments:

archangel48 said...

I absolutely ADORE David Archuleta! I'm giddy with pride to see him show up on sites like these! Thanks for realizing the VOICE is more than an American Idol contestant!

Paula said...

David Archuleta introduced me to Riu Riu Chiu and I love the song, particularly because of the reverence he gives to the song while pouring his whole heart and soul into singing it. Thanks for sharing all the versions! (I'm not a teeny-bopper, though...a "little bit" older than that..unless 50 could be considered a teeny-bopper at heart.)

Diane said...

David Archuleta's CD, Christmas From The Heart is the first time I had ever heard Riu Riu Chiu. I too love his vocal skills and reverence that are lent to this song. But I also adore him and I'm a 50+ teeny-bopper. Thank you for sharing so many variations of the song and the history of it's origin.

Jim Moran said...

Thanks for the reading and the comments, Arch, Paula, and Diane!

These posts of mine appear first on a Kingston Trio message board - where WE are all 50+ year old former teeny boppers! I thought that given your enthusiasm for DA you'd appreciate that his rendition of Riu Riu Chiu got great reviews over there - one of my friends (a 65 yrd old former bopper) wrote -

"Wow, that David Archuleta can really belt 'em out, eh? Sent shivers up my spine."

Happy New Year to you all!

Maria said...

That David Archuleta has PIPES!!! He makes that song soar...he does a great job on Riu Chiu. Thanks for the article, very interesting, and thanks to AI for giving us the talent of David Archuleta.

becauseofhim2 said...

I was there in the front row center that night. I think that is my big head shadowing the center and view of the camera. HE IS JUST AS AMAZING ON THIS CLIP AS HE IS IN PERSON. David is AMAZINGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!

cowboys4 said...

Ooohh.. I am loving The Monkees version of Riu Riu Chiu and David Archuleta's. This is a fantastic song and I love the different takes on the song. This is another cool version that I really like. It's from Sixpence None the Richer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RplJcX3U9DI&feature=related

Jim Moran said...

Thanks in turn to Maria, becauseofhim, and cowboys4 for the DA enthusiasm. I'll tell you all something - the last time I got this amount of attention on this blog was last year when I did a piece on a song by Bob Dylan - and it wasn't nearly as fast. Young David seems to have a legion of enthusiastic fans - and deservedly so.

And thanks cowboys4 for the link - I had found Sixpence None The Richer on YT and had it on my list to include here - I just decided here to go for the "old music" sounding versions. They do a great job, though!

Amy (in VA) said...

I love David Archuleta's rendition of Riu Riu Chiu. He is my favorite artist because he connects to the song he's singing and he delivers with his amazing voice and musicality. I'm no teeny bopper as others have stated, but David's hardly someone you could place in that category. His talent far exceeds his age. I highly recommend you check out his version of Pat-A-Pan too! I really never cared much for this French carol. Now it's a family favorite!Thank you for recognizing his talent in your very interesting article. Peace.

Gwen said...

David Archuleta is the VOICE. This young man has a voice like no other out there today. So very talented for such a young man and so very wise. I too, am not a teeny bopper ,70 plus, and I wouldn't miss a concert that this man put on. Thank you for including him in your article and thanks AI for bringing him to us. Go check out Ave Maria from his Christmas from the Heart. AMAZING!!!!!!!!

cb said...

The KIngston trio set a high bar and I enjoyed their version. David Archuleta made it personal and sang it with emotion and feeling. Beautiful. Thanks for an informative and interesting article. I enjoyed it very much.

jeani said...

I loved this blog.
It was so interesting to hear all of these versions. I first heard this song on David's Christmas album. David's voice seems to be for all ages not just teeny boppers.
Good mix of versions. I especially loved the last one.

colleen said...

OMGOSH! David Archuleta knocks this song out of the ballpark when he performs live! Although, he IS a BRILLIANT musical talent. Thanks for the great article.

Holly said...

Thanks for having David Archuleta as one of the Riu Riu versions for comparison. I, as many, had never heard this song, but have fallen in love with it. Please don't ever consider David just "an American Idol". He is so much more. Please get to know his other music from Christmas From the Heart and him as a person. Not a more genuine, likable, interesting artist out there. Here is a link to another favorite song, Pat-a-Pan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4PWISPCCJQ

Jim Moran said...

I see that the "Fans Of David" site picked up this blog post, an thanks for that and stopping by. I should probably clarify that -

a) most of us over on Kingston Crossroads (the message board where i first post these blog entries) are not generally fans of American Idol and its styles of music and singing, but

b)most everyone there, including me, were very impressed with DA's treatment of this song and his vocals in general. You all are right - he's an excellent singer.

All he needs to do now is get past the AI stage and grow into his voice. He could be another Sinatra - and that's saying a lot.

esperanto41 said...

Two other noteworthy versions:

Riu riu chiu - Cancionero de Upsala: synchronizes the score with a nice rendition of the song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDp5Hl-FtFQ&feature=related

My favorite is by Anuna, a men's chorus, a cappella, except for captivating bass drum background:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVe9DLlrMWM