Saturday, January 15, 2011

Simon Diaz & Hugo Blanco - El Peine

"El Peine" ("The Comb") is a tongue-in-cheek song by Venezuelan folk singer Simón Díaz from the early days of his career in 1965, just after he'd got his big break singing with harpist and composer Hugo Blanco.

The video shows a young Díaz sitting with a furruco, the special drum used in gaita music from Maracaibo, which is played by rubbing the hands down the stick attached to the drum head.

From the beginning Díaz stood out as a comedian and "El Peine" is no exception, playing on the similarity in sound between the Spanish word for comb and the word for a delicate part of the male anatomy.

Accompanied by a jaunty harp, a four-stringed guitar known as a cuatro and maracas, the verse goes "lend me your comb to play some music and start the party with a barrel of guarapita", referring to the heady cocktail of raw cane alcohol and passion fruit juice called guarapita which is popular along Venezuela's Caribbean coast.

Tio Simón (Uncle Simon), as he is known to his fans, is considered a national treasure in Venezuela and for many years presented a children's show that promoted folk traditions, humour and songs.

Born in 1948 in Barbacoas and baptized Simón Narciso Díaz Márquez, he is famous for his renditions of folk songs known collectively as joropo or música criolla from the area known as Los Llanos, a vast swathe of seasonally-flooded cattle country that stretches from Venezuela into Colombia.

His most famous composition is "Caballo Viejo" - which became a huge international hit for the Franco-Spanish group the Gipsy Kings after they renamed the song "Bamboleo".

He also recorded a very popular version of the country's unofficial anthem "Alma Llanera".

Some of his most famous songs were remixed a few years ago by young electronica artists such as Baylon Motorhome,  who added a lilting ska beat to the song "Angustia"

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