On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…

 

Nicomedes Santa Cruz – Samba malato (1964)

It’s time for something completely different today. We’re leaving behind the beautiful French shores and heading back across the Atlantic to South America. It’s a big old place is this continent but for our purposes we will be jettisoning ourselves in Peru. Here we find a gentleman by the name of Nicomedes Santa Cruz. He was instrumental in revitalising Afro-Peruvian music he had heard from his grandparents, music whose combination between Africa and Peru was the result of slaves being shipped to South America in one of history’s most dreadful chapters. From such terrible moments in time came music that Santa Cruz made popular again and others followed in his footsteps. Of the many songs he recorded we have Samba malato.

Ladies and gentlemen, yours truly found translations for this particular song hard to come by. The lyrics are minimal with later artists adding more complexity with their own versions. The samba is a style of music and dance from Brazil with its origins coming from Africa. In Samba malato there is reference to dancing and to falling in love with someone dancing but not much else. A combination of Spanish and Kikongo, which still exists in Angola and the Congo, make up the song so it’s a tricky one to unravel. 

Samba malato may not be the easiest of songs to define but it’s one of those where words are not really important. The music here has a great beat for dancing, the sort that you could imagine crowds standing together, dancing, and clapping along to. Before you ask, no, I won’t be getting up and dancing but did shuffle in my seat a little in response to the rhythm. Although there is sadness to be found in how this music came to be, it is a testament to the artists who have created such beauty out of something as horrific as slavery.

 

Favourite songs so far:

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)

Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)

Peggy Lee – Fever (1958)

The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)

The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1960)

Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)

Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)

Roy Orbison – In Dreams (1963)

The Ronettes – Be My Baby (1963)

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