Archive for November, 2010


Hector Lavoe – Aguanile (Revised)

Salsa has been the traditional and festive music in Hispanic culture, this genre in music stemmed originally from Puerto Rico and spread through-out Central and South America. One major music influence in this particular genre was Hector Lavoe, from Puerto Rico. This amazing artist was important to this genre of music from the 1960’s (where salsa was originating from a similar genre called the “Boogaloo”) up until the early 1990’s. Hector Lavoe left his footprint in Salsa music because of his dedication to the music, and his continuous number one hits in Latin American countries, even though he was recording in the US.

Hector Lavoe released the album Déjà Vu on November 1,1978, featured in this album was the musical hit Aguanile, which was co-produced by Willie Colon, another Salsa legend. This song incorporated traditional Boricuan Salsa with Afro-Cuban influence, which included the heavily religious practices of Santeria. Aguanile is a song composed in spanish, but also has a lot of chants from the Nigerian language Yoruba, where the roots of the Santeria religion were established.

Aguanile – Hector Lavoe (1978)

Written by – Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe

Label – Fania Records

Re-Released – 1994

Hector Lavoe\’s AGUANILE <- CLICK TO SEE: Hector Lavoe’s Aguanile

Aguanile Aguanile*
Santo Dios, Santo Fuerte, Santo Inmortal
Holy God, powerful Saint, immortal Saint
Aguanile Aguanile Mai Mai
Aguanile Aguanile Mai Mai
Eh Aguanile Aguanile Aguanile Aguanile Mai Mai

Aguanile is a Yoruban word which means ‘spiritual cleansing’;

Aguanile Mai Mai is a spiritual chant to the Saint (Orisha) Oggun, which is a Priest in Santeria who is the ‘God of technology’.
Eh Kyrie Eleison, Christe Elaison, No Te Metas A Mi Mona
Lord, have mercy; Jesuschrist, have mercy; and don’t mess around with us**
Que Yo Tambien Me Se De’so
‘cause I also know about that sort of thing,
Oye Todo El Mundo Reza Que Reza
listen how everyone is praying all the time
Pa’que Se Acabe La Guerra
so that war will come to an end
Eso No Se Va a Acabar Eso Sera Una Rareza
but it won’t happen, it would be really strange
Although this song is in mostly Spanish/Yoruba, Kyrie Eleison is Greek for “God, Have mercy upon us”.

He also states that war is inevidable.
Ay Tambores Umaculli, Tambores Umaculla
There are drums over here, and drums over there,
Que Se Echen Todo Pa’lao
Everyone stand aside
Que La Tierra Va Ha Temblar
because the Earth is going to tremble
Que Abonbon Chele Abonbonchacha*
Yo Traigo Aguanile Pa’ Rociar A Las Muchachas
I’ve got aguanile*** to sprinkle the girls

In this verse it is clear that there is a religious ritual occuring. Santeria is a religion of many rituals, most involving various sacrifices (some including animals). In these rituals there is lots of singing, chants, dancing, music and instruments.
Ay Que Los tres Clavos De La Cruz
Oh, let the three nails in the Cross
Vayan Delante De Mi
go ahead of me
Que Le Hablen Y Le Responda
let’em talk to Him and He answer to them,
Ay Dios Tu ve
And my God, you can see
Al Que Me Critique A Mi
those who criticize me

Religion is a major part of this verse due to the clash between Santeria and Catholicism. Both, Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon believed in the Catholic religion but were fascinated by the beliefs and practices of Santeria.

Yo Tengo Aguanile Mai Mai
I’ve got aguanile mai mai

Un Judio Que A Caballo Gritaba Sin Compasion
A Jew riding a horse was shouting mercilessly:
Oh Jesus Crucificado, Muerto Por Una Traicion
“Oh Jesus has been crucified! He’s dead because he was betrayed!”
Eh Abongonchele Abongochacha
Aguanile Bendiceme A Las Muchachas
Aguanile bless the girls
Ay Aguanile Dame Agua
Hey Aguanile, give me some water
Estoy Seco Y Quiero Beber
I’m thirsty and need to drink

In the last verse, it’s almost as if Hector was talking about his own issues. During the time that he wrote this song, he was facing issues with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, marriage problems and deep depression due to the loss of his 17 year old son. It was said but never confirmed that Hector consulted Santeria priests so that in turn they could fix his problems.

In regards to the composition of the song, there are various different instruments being used. In the beginning of the song there are animal sounds, which some seem to sound as if the animals were to be screeching. This production of sounds blend in well with the theme of the song, since during Santeria rituals there are the occasional animal sacrifices. Soon after the animal sound snippets there are percussion introductions, and Hector starts singing. The typical salsa beats with the drums are a big part of this song, with a very lively and vibrant rhythm which makes you want to dance in your seat, which is quite ironic in regards to the meaning of the song.

The song begins with a several screeches from what sounds like a large bird, followed by distant elephant noises, which are combined with elaborate, gradually increasing and repetitive (what seems like) African chants. All of a sudden the chants cease and the animal noises are brought down to a minimal amount, then there is a sudden introduction of a trumpet sound – much like a Herald trumpet, which is used to announce a king’s entrance. The use of this introduction is letting the listener know they are about to be introduced to something important and meaningful.

Lavoe follows up on his introduction by vocalizing and stretching out the word “Aguanile” with a very soulful voice, giving the word great significance, in which at the same time there is a fast-paced hollow drum solo which is then blended in with cowbells. Lavoe continues to vocalize a verse which he speaks about these gods which he is praising in the song. Although he is slowly and gradually building up a beat to a faster, more up-beat dance, there is still enough rhythm for some foot shuffle in the beginning of the song.

As the beat and rhythm build up in the song, the trumpets are re-introduced as well as pianos. About 3:08 minutes into the song, all the instruments cease once again, and one single drum is introduced, shortly followed by cowbells once again, and surely Lavoe enters the song again with his delightful voice. At this part of the song, it seems as though there is some sort of mimicking from the beginning of the song. About 1 minute after the change in pace, the song picks up once again to bear the once again fast-paced salsa rhythm we heard in the middle of the song, which continues until the end of the song where we end with the trumpets bidding the good-bye’s of the “king”.

This kind of song is danced in fast paced salsa movements, which includes back and forth feet movement, hip rotations, and lots and lots of spins. In my opinion, it is a very fun and enjoyable kind of dance.

Carrying on Hector Lavoe’s Work:

A little more than 2 decades after the release of this song, Nuyorican Productions released the film “El Cantante” nationally and internationally. This film tells the story of Hector Lavoe (played by Marc Anthony) from his birth in 1946, followed by his incredibly successful career throughout the 1960’s and ’70s, up until his fatal death in 1993.

Marc Anthony then recorded his own version of Aguanile, which can be given much comparison to that of Hector Lavoe’s.

Marc Anthony\’s AGUANILE <- CLICK TO SEE: Marc Anthony’s version of Aguanile, From El cantante (2006)


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