As a special request here is a review of “La Palomilla” by Joe Cuba (this video shows one interpretation of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5buMguSmLUs.).
This song is an example of what I refer to as a simple salsa. I don’t mean simple in a bad way, more in that there is no distraction to it. It is a salsa sound, pure and simple. The pure rhythm is somewhat reminiscent of latin jazz, the main difference being the absence of the large brass ensemble. If you listen, all you hear is the clave, keyboard and percussion. The instrumentation is a reminder of the roots of salsa. The pace is excellent and not rushed. The advantage, dance wise, to this is that there is no need to rush and actually lets you be highly creative due to its constant sound. The discerning ear will quickly realize that shines are not only appropriate, but almost mandatory. From a learners’ point of view, the beat is easily distinguished and followed, making it ideal for learning how to pick up the beat.
Now, what is the song saying? Well, La Palomilla means the little dove. More accurately, it is an allusion to the dove of peace. However, the intent is not a dove spreading peace but rather salsa (which of course brings its own sense of love ;)). As the song starts, picture a dove taking flight from the Dominican, spreading salsa over everywhere it flies. The lyrics aren’t complex, they just basically say that ‘the little dove invites you to dance.’ It goes on to say that if you play the raspa (an instrument where a metal fork is scraped across a corrugated wooden surface), or any instrument for that reason, then you’ll want to dance. Again, the simplicity of the lyrics is echoed by the instrumentation.
Being a former brass player, I love songs that have large brass section, however, the lack of that does not detract from the enjoyment of this song. There are sections where all you hear is the clave and keyboard building up to the percussion. These stretches put you on the edge of a musical explosion, and when that explosion is reached it just feels right and the song takes off.
All in all, I really enjoy this song. While it may not come to mind right away, it is still an homage to traditional salsa and can be called nothing short of salsa sabrosa (sabrosa means delicious, tasty). A very good aspect of this song is to show that there are different styles of salsa, different paces, and each one is just as good to dance to as the next. Overall, strong song, appropriate lyrics and musicality. Whether you remember it or not, you’ll enjoy dancing to it. Hasta la proxima….