Saturday, February 12, 2005

Ojos azules

Around seven years ago, Senthil went to the US for a short business trip and returned with two CDs. Senthil had been living opposite my room in Pondicherry University Hostel. He was studying computer science, but had an all abiding interest in all things creative , especially drama and literature. We became firm friends and I still remember inflicting him with poems and prose pieces. But my stay in Pondicherry ended, and even though he later got a job in Bangalore itself, our ways parted. Friends are like books, some you carry with you wherever you go, and others you keep for a while and you are left with only memories of a plot or an ambience. To get to the point, one of the CDs that Senthil brought back was Putumayo's Native America collection: an assorted collection of music from the indigenous people of the Americas- both North and south. I'm not entirely sure of the other CD, but I think it was a collection of music from the Andes. I taped a copy for myself and I became enamored of Andean folk music then, I think. One particular melody stood out- an instrumental version of the song 'Ojos Azules" (meaning: Blue Eyes). The song had a subtle melancholy that really appealed to me, and it quickly became a tune that I would never forget.

Years passed and I headed off to Israel for my master's. Many of my friends there were from Latin America, and in the course of ransacking their music collections, I happened to mention to CDC that I had a tape with Andean music. Of course by this time, I had only the tape- i.e. no liner notes or anything. I had even forgotten by this time what the song was called. So when CDC heard the song she instantly recognized it as a popular folk song that is heard all over the Andes, so much so that people from Peru and Colombia each claimed that it was native to their country. But nobody had the full version, with the lyrics.

Later that year I had an opportunity to go to Greece for a vacation, and while I was idly roaming the streets of Athens, I saw a group of South American singers in one of the plazas. They were equipped with native instruments and a background drums were provided by a MD-player and speakers. I listened to them for a while and during a break, I went up to the singer and asked him if he knew this song. I even had to whistle the tune to jog his memory, but he recognized it and played it quickly on his pipes. I asked him if he could sing it, the whole song, but he said that their performances were strictly organized and they didn't have backing music for it, so I let it go.

A new student joined the Uni then, LC from Colombia, who among her CDs had a collection of Andean Music. Finally I had found the entire lyrics and a good version of the song. Of course I could have done a web search, but the importance of this song was slow in coming. I asked LC to write down the lyrics, and I spent a drunken evening memorizing it, so that it would never leave my head. Even now I can remember most of it, though the precise meanings of some phrases are eluding me.

I found the song strange in many ways. It seems to be a really old tune, and my guess is that the spanish lyrics have been tacked on later. I think this because the song is about the abandonment of a woman by her lover, and she refers to him as Blue Eyes, and of course, blue eyes are very uncommon in the Andes.
Here is an excerpt of the song:

"Ojos azules no llores
no llores ni tenga amores
lloraras cuando me vaya
cuando remedio ya no haya"

A translation would be:

"*Blue eyes don't cry
Neither cry, nor fall in love
You'll cry when I'll leave
When there is no longer a remedy"

(thanks, Pacho, for the correct translation)

I tried to search for the origin of this song, but most of the results are in spanish and I am not capable of wading through them.

Here's an instrumental version (real audio) and here's the version (~6mb, with words) I have.