STLT#305, De Colores

I am really struggling today to know what to say about this song.

Partly, it’s because I didn’t look ahead enough to think about interviewing colleagues Julica Hermann DelaFuente or Marisol Caballero, both of whom might have more insight into the difficulties or joys of this Mexican folk tune appearing in our hymnal – perhaps there will be a Hymn by Hymn Extra in our near future…

What can say is that it likely got noticed because (again) of the folkies we all know and love, this time the incomparable Joan Baez. While David Arkin’s lyrics were written for the 1976 song collection “How Can I Keep from Singing?” and published by the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, they appear to be reasonable musical translations of what appear to be original Spanish lyrics (except for the rooster crowing verse – which seems sad, since I want to hear a congregation sing “quiri, quiri, quiri” and “cara, cara, cara” and “pio, pio, pio” – or at least “cock-a-doodle-doo” and “cluck, cluck, cluck” and “cheep, cheep, cheep.”).

All the colors, yes, the colors we see in the springtime with all of its flowers.
All the colors, when the sunlight shines out through a rift in the cloud and it showers.
All the colors, as a rainbow appears when a storm cloud is touched by the sun.
All the colors abound for the whole world around and for ev’ryone under the sun.

All the colors, yes, the colors of people parading on by with their banners.
All the colors, yes, the colors of pennants and streamers and plumes and bandannas.
All the colors, yes, the colors of people now taking their place in the sun.
All the colors abound for the whole world around and for ev’ryone under the sun.

All the colors, yes, the black and the white and the red and the brown and the yellow.
All the colors, all the colors of people who smile and shake hands and say “Hello!”
All the colors, yes, the colors of people who know that their freedom is won.
All the colors abound for the whole world around and for ev’ryone under the sun.

De colores, de colores se visten los campos en la primavera.
De colores, de colores son los pajaritos que vienen de a fuera.
De colores, de colores es al arco iris que vemos lucir.
Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mi.

My problem in response is this: is it misappropriation? Should we have all the Spanish verses? Should we sing those?

I also bristle at the first line of the third verse. And I fear that white congregations don’t know how to sing this, and thus turn it into something it is not (often a dirge, sometimes almost a polka, and never – more’s the pity – on guitar). And I’m not sure if I’m making assumptions or judgments that aren’t mine to make.

Meanwhile, I’m going to leave you with this recording of the song by Mexican musician José-Luis Orozco, whose music promotes bilingual education:

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