Rumba Song Anthology

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In the 1980s rumba aficionados in the SF Bay Area assembled this songbook, with translations in English, for our mutual benefit. We humbly share it with the world.


  • How this project came to be

    The present work represents the long-awaited rumba section of the Orisha / Rumba Song Anthology--three hours of classic rumbas, with Spanish transcription, English translation, clave markings, and some random illustrations. It was put together over during the late 1980s by rumberos of the San Francisco Bay Area as a study guide for aficionados of these great Afro-Cuban musical traditions, without desire for profit or prestige. We remain, therefore, anonymous.

    However, the originator, overall administrator, and hardest worker should now be recognized: Jerry Shilgi. Jerry, while much more engaged in the Orisha material and his own highly developed research among the Cuban masters of the bat, selected these songs, oversaw the translation and inputting of the rumba material, maintained editorial control over every last comma, and in general demanded the highest standards of accuracy from his many collaborators in the community, who invested hundreds of hours in this project. Jerry was also a key organizer of the Tijuana Afro-Cuban workshops, and it was there that he perished in a automobile. He was 38 years old.

    At the time of his death in 1993, this manuscript was 95% complete, but still did not meet his standards for style and correctness. We, his collaborators and friends over the years, have decided to edit the material one last time and release it now as a service to the community and as a memorial to the man. Our version may not be as free of error and inconsistency as Jerry would have demanded, and we ask our readers to assign to us, and not to Jerry, the errors you find. We will appreciate constructive criticism and will consider a second edition if enough changes need to be made. J: A more polished rumba anthology by Barry Cox can be found at

    Let us remember Jerry Shilgi at our rumbas and toques, and let us thank him as we learn and enjoy the materials he left us.

    Henry Flood Miguel Almodvar Bob Cruikshank Calvin Holmes Jerry Shilgi

    New Years Eve Rumba, 1987, San Francisco, Barrio La Misin

  • Notes on symbols version January 2016 from Felipe ( Symbols for singers D indicates a duet in harmony. G is for gallo, the lead singer who typically opens the song with the wordless improvised diana section, states the main theme of the song as a soloist, and leads the chorus with clever improvised phrases. His or her goal is to maximize the excitement of the event by inspired singing, choosing the most appropriate songs, and knowing when to finish or change to a new song or coro. A good gallo also interacts closely with the quinto drummers fills and flourishes. C stands for coro (or chorus) in the montuno, the call and response section of the song, when the dancers come out. Singing coro is a great way to get started as a rumba singer. Listen to yourself blend in, sing in tune (not always easy to determine) and maintain eye contact with whoever seems to know what he or she is doing and seems willing to help you get it right. Clave markings It is vital to sing these songs in correct relationship to the clave. We hope the markings are clear and correct. The symbol \3/ over a syllable, for example, means simply that the syllable (and thus the line) starts on that note (in this case the third stroke of the clave). The same mark one space ahead of the syllable means that the syllable falls just after that stroke of the clave. The standard rumba clave is xooxoooxooxoxooo and must be played perfectly. Translation The great majority of the translations are as Jerry insisted they be: as close to word for word and line for line as meaning would permit. Jerry hoped that this approach, as compared to a less strictly literal, more poetic version, would facilitate acquisition of Spanish by our monolingual English readers. Other translations are clearly more colloquial, reflecting as best we can the feel of the original artist, complete with dated idiomatic expressions. A few translations, designated as such, are designed to be more or less singable in English. Sadly, none of the translations convey the poetic richness, funky phrasing, and the ornate rhyme schemes of the best of the songs in their original Cuban Spanish.

    Some of the gallos pregones may seem frankly silly in translation and out of context. Remember that the songs were chosen for their musical excellence and representativeness, and not primarily for literary interest. We encourage you to create original pregones in English and Spanish, honoring the improvisational creativity so characteristic of the music. Passages in Lucum or other Afro-Cuban languages are left untranslated.

  • ORISHA / RUMBA ANTHOLOGY TAPE III: RUMBA: Table of Contents SIDE III A Chano Pozo guaguanc Mongo SantaMara1 Oye Mis Cantares yamb Totico w/Puntilla2 Guaguanc rumba de cajones Del Pueblo Anthology3 Desangao de los Roncos guaguanc Carlos Embales w/Los Roncos5 Los Beodos guaguanc Muequitos6 Dilo Como Yo guaguanc Totico w/Patato & Arsenio7 El Da Que Nac Yo guaguanc Los Papines w/ Merceditas Valdez8 De Nuevo los Muequitos guaguanc Muequitos9 El Lucum bat-rumba Afro-Cuba10 Con Su Guara Guara guaguanc Carlos Embales12 Columbia columbia Tonados Trinitaria13 Malanga columbia Columbia de Pto Crdenas15 SIDE III B Ave Mara Morena yamb C. Folklrico Nacional16 Canto Angola yamb/rumba de cajones Muequitos 17 Rico Yamb yamb Afro-Cuba19 Mi Guaguanc guaguanc Bobby Matos & Heritage20 Consulate Como Yo guaguanc Carlos Embales21 Los Muequitos guaguanc Muequitos22 Los Barrios guaguanc Los Papines23 Tu Eres Muy Nia guaguanc Carlos Embales24 Palo Ya Ya bat-rumba Teresa Polledo25 Franciscua guaguanc Los Papines26 En El Callejn guaguanc Totico w/Patato & Arsenio27 Tata Perico columbia Alberto Loyas,Roberto Maza 28 Columbia columbia Del Pueblo Anthology29 ORISHA / RUMBA ANTHOLOGY TAPE IV SIDE IV A Yamb-TO BE COMPLETED yamb Mongo Santamara31 Tierra de Hateuy yamb/rumba de cajones Muequitos32 Ahora rumba de cajones Los Aspirinas w/ Tio Tom & Miguel A. Jauregu33 Dnde Estabas Anoche? guaguanc Carlos Embales w/ Los Roncos34 El Vive Bien guaguanc Alberto Zayas w/ Roberto Maza35 Agua Que Va a Caer guaguanc Totico w/Patato & Arsenio36 Mi Quinto guaguanc Los Papines37 Ya No Tengo Amigos guaguanc Carlos Embales38 Te Juro Bab Caee guaguanc Afro-Cuba w/ Saldiguera39 What's Your Name? guaguanc Totico w/ Puntilla40 Buenas Noches Che Che guaguanc Los Papines42 Rumba Pa' Lucumi bata-rumba/columbia Patato/Julito Collazo44 Tocoloro columbia Muequitos44

  • SIDE IV B Yamb yamb Mongo Santamara47 Ultima Rumba guaguanc Carlos Embales47 Congo Yambumba- TB COMP guaguanc Muequitos49 Congoro guaguanc Carlos Embales50 El Chinito guaguanc Muequitos50 51 Placeta E columbia Chano Pozo w/ Roberto Maza52 Medley: Yamb/Rumba de Cajn Afro-Cuba Medley I Afro-Cuba54 Afro-Cuba Medley II Afro-Cuba55 Yamb Del Pueblo Anthology56 Yamb Del Pueblo Anthology57 El Ecolero Los Aspirinas w/ Tiotom & Miguel A.Jauregu58 El Mono Afro-Cuba58 Medley: Guaguanc/Bat-Rumba Juventudo Del Presente TO BE COMPLETED Silvestre Mendez59 Amalia, Amalia Justi Barreto60 Blancas Margaritas Los Papines60 Coco Pelao Francisco Aguabella61 El Cuarto Afro-Cuba62 Nicolasa Muequitos63 Si el Diablo te Llama C. Folklrico Nacional63 Se Vende Un Corazn Afro-Cuba64 "So" Caballo C. Folklrico Nacional64 Celame Como Ayer Carlos Embales64 Mara la Tererema Carlos Embales64 Mara la O Cuenda Celeste Mend