18 Nov. 1907: COMPAY SEGUNDO ‘s Birth

18 Nov. 1907: COMPAY SEGUNDO ‘s Birth

Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz (18 November 1907 – 13 July 2003), known professionally as “Compay Segundo“, was a Cuban singer-songwriter and guitarist

He achieved great  international fame in 1997, with the release of the Buena Vista Social Club album, and  the film of the same title,  made by Wim Wenders

Segundo’s most famous composition is “Chan Chan”, the opening track on the Buena Vista Social Club album, whose four opening chords are instantly recognizable all over the world.

At a fiesta he sang to President Fidel Castro, who took his pulse and joked about his vitality despite his 90-plus years.  He performed “Chan Chan” at the Vatican City  “Chan Chan” before Pope John Paul II.  He explained his longevity simply: mutton consommé and a drink of rum. He predicted that he would live to be 115, but died of kidney failure in Havana at the age of 95.


De Alto Cedro voy para Marcané
Llego a Cueto, voy para Mayarí


El cariño que te tengo
No te lo puedo negar
Se me sale la babita
Yo no lo puedo evitar

Cuando Juanica y Chan Chan
En el mar cernían arena
Como sacudía el jibe
A Chan Chan le daba pena

Limpia el camino de pajas
Que yo me quiero sentar
En aquél tronco que veo
Y así no puedo llegar

De alto Cedro voy para Marcané
Llegó a Cueto voy para Mayarí


(English translation).

From Alto Cedro I go to Marcané,

Then to Cueto, I go to Mayarí

The love I have for you

I cannot  deny

My mouth is watering

And I can’t help it

When Juanica and Chan Chan

Sifted sand at sea

The way she was shaking the sifter

Made Chan Chan embarrassed

Clear the road of straws

because I want to sit down

On that tree trunk that I see

And I can’t arrive there that way

Chan Chan, which  has great meaning for Cuban music history, was one of Segundo’s last compositions.

On the composition of the song,  the author said: “I didn’t compose Chan Chan, I dreamed it. I dream the music. I sometimes wake up with a melody on the head, I hear the instruments, all very clear. I look over the balcony and I see nobody, but I hear it as if it was played on the street. I don’t know what it was. One day I woke up listening to those four sensible notes, I gave  them a lyric inspired on a children tale from my childhood, Juanica y Chan Chan, and you see, now it’s sung everywhere.”

The lyrics of the song revolve around those two characters taken from Cuban folklore,  a man called Chan Chan and a woman called Juanica,   who are building a house. They travel throughout Cuba searching for sand to use and finally arrive at the perfect beach.  They decide to sift the sand to remove the pebbles  Chan Chan collects the sand and puts it on the jibe (a sieve  for sand) and Juanica shakes it. But, to do so, she shakes herself and Chan Chan can’t help but notice her body moving rhythmically beneath the folds of her dress. This sight arouses him and the boy, full of shame, leaves the beach hurriedly seeking shelter beneath a tree

The chorus of the song  mentions four towns near each other, on the east side of Cuba.


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