January 23, 2012

Paquito El Xocolatero: Or how to compile a soundtrack for Fallas

Or maybe I should subtitle this "Pasodoble, the other famous style of Spanish music". Contrary to what many a ignorant naive guiri may think, flamenco is not the only native music style in Spain. Pasodoble, the music beat and the dance step, is based on the music played during a bullfighter's entrance into a bullfight ("el paseo") or played during the passes ("faena") just before the kill. Can you get more Spanish than that? Because of its "duple meter" (two-beat) march-like rhythm, many popular marching songs for Fallas are pasodobles.


And my personal favorite Valencian pasodoble classic is "Paquito el Xocolatero" (the "x" in Catalan is pronounced like "ch" here). The song was composed in the 1930s, to be played for the Moros y Cristianos festival in Alcoy, but over the years it has become popular to play for parades all throughout Spain, and is one of several commonly played songs during the Valencia Fallas festivities. 

I've never been, but I hear Moros y Cristianos, the setting for Paquito El Xocolatero,
is spectacular. And don't be fooled by the Christians conquering Moors theme.
Apparently, according to my mother-in-law who's from a town nearby, everyone
usually wants to be a Moor because they dress so much cooler.

It was made even more famous when Els Pavesos covered it. Els Pavesos was a group formed by Joan Monleón and others from the Falla no. 50 Corretgeria - Bany dels Pavesos in the early 1970s. Els Pavesos created popular albums based on traditional songs played during Fallas. Joan Monleón, who must have been quite a colorful character, became a fixture on local TV with his own show.

Joan Monleón as seen with his famous "paella rusa" on his TV show,
which he would spin much like a "ruleta rusa" (Russian roulette).
A Valencian political blogger has taken up Monleón's paella rusa
for the title of his quite successful blog.

When Monleón passed away in 2010, Valencians left a variety of homenajes to him,
including him in a Falla (on the left) and drawing a street mural (on the right). 

For your entertainment, I embed a version of "Paquito el Xocolatero" as sung by Els Pavesos, with the lyrics below:



---------------------------------------------------------
                            Paquito "El Xocolatero":               

Paquito "El Xocolatero"                 Paquito the "Chocolate-maker"
és un home molt formal                 is a very serious man
quan arriba la Festa                       who, when the festival starts,
va sempre molt colocat.                 always gets really high.*

Es posa el vestit de Festa             He dresses up in the festival outfit
el puro, café-licor                          [with] the cigar, [and] "café-licor" liquor [in hand],**
i se'n va per la filà                         and heads to the "filà" marching line***
per oblidar-se de tot.                      in order to forget about all else.

(tornada)                                      (chorus)

Pels carrers va desfilant                Through the streets they go marching
entre plomes i colors                     among the plumes/feathers and colors
el poble se'n va entregant              and the town gets [even more] motivated
a la gràcia d'aquest home              because of the charming enthusiasm of this man
que sap com ningú ballar.              who knows how to dance like no one else.
Pels carrers va desfilant.               Through the streets they go marching.

I quan acaba la Festa                    And when the party ends
L'endemà s'en va a la fàbrica         the next day he'll go back to the factory
i es posa a treballar                       and he'll dress for work.
Cantueso i Herbero                       [Drinking] "Cantueso" and "Herbero"****
per a poder-ho aguantar                so as to be able to endure it.
fins que torne nostra Festa            Until the return of our Festival
tan Valenciana, tan popular.          so Valencian, so popular [of the people].

(bis)                                             (encore)

Pels carrers va desfilant                Through the streets they go marching
entre plomes i colors                     among the plumes and colors
el poble se'n va entregant              and the town goes surrendering
a la gràcia d'aquest home              in thanks to this man
que sap com ningú ballar.              who knows how to dance like no one else.
En la Festa Valenciana                 In the Valencian festival
tan Valenciana, tan popular.          so Valencian, so popular.


     *Trans. note: high on life, not necessarily in the sense of drunk or high on drugs
     **A classic type of liquor from Alcoy
     ***A filà is the marching group and formation of people in the Moros y Cristianos festival of Alcoy
     ****Two types of liquor made from distilling flowers with herbs (and with grain alcohol), both made in Alicante;      Herbero, for example, is made from aromatic plants that grow in the Sierra de Mariola region right next to Alcoy
---------------------------------------------------------

You can see the charm of this song for falleros. They spend all year at their mundane jobs, passing much of their free-time and weekends raising money for the Casal or preparing next season's Falla. So when Fallas finally does come round, they let loose like Paquito here, drink a ton, dance a ton. It's their moment!


Falleras and falleros on their way to L'ofrenda to the Virgin, most likely accompanied
by a band playing traditional pasodoble songs like Paquito El Xocolatero.

Disclaimer: To like this kind of music is kind of like being a fan of "Dixie Land" in the States, which is to say, it is associated with a certain worldview and politics that, were you born in Spain, you might want to distance yourself from. Falleros tend to be more conservative and close-minded provincial, and, indeed, are likely to be those Valencians who regularly spearhead the irritating misguided efforts to declare Valenciano a distinct language from Catalan. My wife asks me to please not sing this song out loud in public, and, upon declaring my love of this Fallas music one day in Valenciano class, one of my classmates asked me whether I was sure "this was the kind of Valencian culture I wanted to associate myself with". Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and here it is worth playing the guiri card. I think this song is truly great, both melodically and lyrically. 

Some of the more traditional bands might be
playing the "dolçaina" flute i "tabal" drum,
traditional instruments of Valencia
If you agree, then I can recommend you some other classic songs of Fallas, which you can start downloading from here to create your own Fallas soundtrack. (Think of this music as being the equivalent to John Philip Sousa for the 4th of July.) A few of my personal favorites: La manta al coll, Valencia (yes, this is the song that everyone hears sung, "Valencia, es la tierra de las flores, de la luz y del amor, Valencia..."), Amparito la filla del mestre. These are more examples of pasodoble songs which you are likely to here falleros marching to come this March.

2 comments:

Mother Theresa said...

I've never actually been to the Fallas, but it looks like fun. They do the Paquito el chocolatero over here too. :)

An Expat in Spain said...

Hi Mother Theresa! The song is catchy, so it's really conquered the peninsula. The other day it was even an answer on the popular Spanish TV game show "Saber y Ganar".

I'm going to spill the beans here and just say that Fallas features prominently this week on the blog... So stay tuned!

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