Sirocco Blue on the Radio | Recent Interview at Boston Expo

At the recent Small Business Expo in Boston, an organization called Radio Entrepreneurs was looking for interesting stories behind creative, new, local businesses for their radio show. When I spoke to the founder and explained the Sirocco vision, he thought it would be good to do an interview with one of the hosts. Continue reading “Sirocco Blue on the Radio | Recent Interview at Boston Expo”


Flamenco Festival 2016 in Boston!

A beautifully written article by Judith Mackrell of The Guardian places Rocío Molina at the helm of flamenco’s development, carrying the tradition forward and anchoring the art form in ideas and concepts once considered far beyond the scope of Flamenco culture.

Mackrell shares fragments of Molina’s montage of influence: She admires the films of Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, and she’s interested in the new generation of dance theatre that includes the likes of Belgian company Peeping Tom. One of her early works, 2005’s El Eterno Retorno, was based on texts by Nietzsche; a later work, Danzaora, was inspired by the painting The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel, an image of disintegrating classical order, in which Molina saw her own embrace of tradition and the avant garde. She did a duet with Korean hip hop dancer, Honji Wang, as well:

These sources of inspiration and the skills she has been developing since the age of 3, in Málaga (Spain), have taken her far. By the age of 30, though the purist school of flamenco may not support the claim, Molina was considered to be one of Spain’s most talented flamenco dancers, “with the power to still an audience with her staccato footwork and spiraling turns. As a choreographer, her ambitious ideas have earned her respect across dance.”

Molina served as artistic associate at the Theatre de Chaillot, performed at the Dance Umbrella. In eight days, she will be in Boston, part of World Music’s 2016 Flamenco Festival at Berkley Performance Center. Here she will be performing the Boston premiere of Danzaora & Vinática.

Speaking on the flamenco tradition and her search for new trajectories, Molina states, “I do consider myself a flamenco dancer… I’m inspired by the old traditions, dancers like Carmen Amaya, Mario Maya and El Farruco. But I’m also interested in the world outside flamenco. I’m trying to work outside the normal flamenco box.”

Yet working outside this “normal flamenco box,” at least as she will presumably do here in Boston, the ingenious programming of World Music seems to suggest lines of continuity despite ruptures and new searches. Farruquito, of the Farruco family who Molina has credited as an inspiration, performed only a few days ago her in Boston, setting the stage for Molina on the 19th. On the 20th, just a day after the Flamenco tradition takes on new formations through Molina, this art form birthed from the Romani, Islamic chants, North Africa Berber, Catholic chants, and Sephardim gets back to its traveling core with the evening’s theme, “Qasida: Flamenco meets Persian classical music.” Rosario “La Tremendita” Guerrero and Mohammad Motamedi

“Qasida is an extraordinary musical encounter between the young Spanish singer Rosario “La Tremendita” Guerrero and her Iranian peer, Mohammad Motamedi. Renowned for accompanying flamenco dancers Belén Maya, Rocío Molina, Rafaela Carrasco, and many others, La Tremendita explores the roots of flamenco in the richly varied poetic songs and improvisations of Motamedi, the young rising star of Persian classical music. They will be accompanied by six musicians on guitar, Iranian kemanche (a bowed string instrument), percussion, and palmas (hand clapping).”

Qasida is originally an Arabic word (قصيدة) meaning “ode” and implying “intention.” It is a form of poetry and became part of the Persian poetic tradition. The intersection of Qasida with incredible flamenco singer Rosario la Tremendita is a re-encounter of Spain’s history, particularly in Andalusia.


Mohammad Motamedi, born in 1978, is an Iranian singer and Ney player, self-taught since adolescence. He influences are Seyed Hossein Taherzadeh and Hamidreza Noorbakhsh, and, a follower of the Esfahan song school, his musical influences also include Taj Esfahani and Adib Khansari. He is a predecessor of the late Dr. Hossein Omoumi and Aliasghar Shahzeidi.


Singer and composer Rosario La Tremendita Guerrero, born in the neighborhood of Triana in Seville in 1984, is the Great grand-daughter of Enriqueta la Pescaera, grandniece of La Gandinga de Triana and daughter of José El Tremendo. Triana is a cradle of Flamenco and it was there that she began to sing in the peñas central and she has sang for the great dancers Belén Maya, Rocío Molina (re-connected, or course, through this World Music tour), Rafaela Carrasco, and Andrés Marín. The last name ‘Marín’ gets to the core of our work and we will look at this legacy of dancers that Rosario has collaborated with when we share our impressions of the event. More to come!

Make sure to buy your tickets for Rocío Molina (March 19, 8 PM) and for Rosario la Tremendita & Mohammad Motamedi (March 20, 7:30 PM) soon! The venue for both events is Berklee Performance Center: 136 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA.

Sirocco Blue will be at both performances so please stay tuned for our review!

Cuba-Sierra Leone | Diasporic Continuities

We came across the description of a new documentary, They are We, that explores the direct line of continuity between the Gangá-Longobá of central Cuba and a community of Banta-speaking people in Sierra Leone.

The trailer moves between Cuba and Sierra Leone, including footage of the community in Sierra Leone viewing an Afro-Cuban religious ceremony prompting one of the community members to say “they are we.” On the Cuban side, “mi cuerpo está en Cuba, pero mi alma está en África” (my body is in Cuba, but my souls is in Africa): these are the types of continuities, trans-Mediterannean and trans-Atlantic, that we will be exploring through the metaphor of the Sirocco system. Please stay tuned for more!

Sirocco Blue Founder & Lead Facilitator

Jacob Dyer Spiegel is founder and lead facilitator of Sirocco Blue, a Boston-based international education consulting organization with numerous business lines: study
abroad development in English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish-speaking countries; post-study abroad program job placement; translation & content editing; local arts & cultural programming; photography; real estate (residential & commercial) and interior design, following what we are defining as a “sirocco aesthetic.”

Before starting Sirocco Blue, Jacob was the head of Laspau-Harvard University’s traditional scholarship programs (2015-16) and led institutional relations with the major scholarship providers in Latin America and the Caribbean: Science Without Borders/Ciência sem Fronteiras-CNPq and CAPES (Brazil), Social Sciences and Humanities Program-CAPES (Brazil), Fulbright (throughout the region), Organization of American States (multiple countries), W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Haiti/Mexico), Innóvate Perú, INICIA Educación (Dominican Republic), BecAR (Argentina), MIT-Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Prior to that, Jacob led the rebuilding of the CIEE study center in Salvador, Brazil and shortly after became resident director (2012-2015). He managed all client relations and center operations, taught university-level courses on the African diaspora in Brazil, developed the Brazilian-Portuguese language and culture program, created and implemented dozens of short-term programs for U.S. universities, and led workshops on the topic of intercultural learning. Jacob developed and supervised five other courses on Bahia and facilitated a “city as text” seminar for the students doing semester-long community service projects.

Jacob was a Fulbright Scholar in Salvador, Brazil (2011) and did research on African Brazilian religions and the role of the terreiro (the religious house or community) in housing education projects for youth. He taught in one if these projects in Salvador in 2002 and 2007. In future articles, Jacob will write about his time in the Fulbright program. His cohort, the largest to arrive in Brazil, began research one week before U.S. President Obama announced 100,000 Strong in the Americas. A few months into the research, Brazilian President Dilma announced Ciência sem Fronteiras: 101,000 Brazilians, over a ten-year period, would study in STEM fields. This was a joint-initiative involving 201,000 scholars, one of the largest mobility projects ever. Jacob participated in both of these initiatives, not only as a Fulbright Scholar in-country when the announcement was made, but also through CIEE and Laspau-Harvard University: he will be writing about the story behind the scenes of these two interconnected education projects on the blog.


Jacob has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and an M.A. in Caribbean Cultural Studies from the first-ever dual enrolled consortium between a Cuban and U.S. institution: La Universidad de la Habana and the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB). Because he participated in so many study abroad programs at UMass-Amherst as an undergraduate (Spain, Cuba, Brazil), Jacob was honored as “UMass King of Study Abroad” by Cristina Sosa, a title he is quite proud of, and two separate B.A. degrees because he took so many courses: Comparative Literature with a Minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Spanish & Portuguese Languages and Cultures.

As a graduate student instructor, Jacob taught his own expository writing courses for two years and led discussion sections for courses on modern world fiction and representations of trauma in literature. His coursework and dissertation project centered on African diaspora studies and translation theory, specifically the appearance and re-appearance of the great Orishas (Yoruba: “deities”) of communication and translation–Eshu and Elegguá, sometimes Exú, sometimes Elegbara, sometimes so codified they remain unnamed yet always present—in Caribbean and Latin American literatures.

Sirocco Blue | Services & Future Projects

The Sirocco wind system develops in the Sahara Desert, moves from North Africa to Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece, and continues on as fast east as Iran. Depending on the geographical area, the wind system can carry hot, dry air and even dust and sediment from the Sahara.

800px-Sirocco_from_LibyaWhat is striking is that the Sirocco moves across an area of the world already deeply connected (though those connections are often purposefully omitted) by shared cultural histories, languages, music and dance tradition, architecture, aesthetic values, and much more.

In that way, the Sirocco serves as a fluid, metaphorical embodiment of a broad, interconnected cultural territory despite colonial and neo-colonial agendas to, for instance, submerge the Islamic history of southern Italy, Spain, and Portugal; divorce Mediterranean language and arts forms from the Romani people; and, even more radically, declare such forms as flamenco as the national music when its producers continue to be persecuted and marginalized (a story repeated across the planet).

By using the Sirocco wind system as a natural model, Sirocco Blue uses a fluid system of crossing to document and promote cultural, linguistic, and historical exchange.

In addition to the writing on cross-cultural connections and diasporic ties, Sirocco Blue builds innovative educational programs of all lengths around them. We do this primarily for U.S.-based universities and study abroad organizations. Our short and long-term study abroad programs celebrate cultural continuities through full-immersion language and intercultural learning. Beginning with intensive Brazilian-Portuguese language and culture studies in Brazil (2009) and most recently a Cuba program for a U.S. study abroad organization (2016), our team has seven years of study abroad development and management experience in Latin America and the Iberian peninsula. We also develop “study away” programs in Puerto Rico, New York City, and Boston on Sirocco and African diaspora themes.

Because we are committed to building high-impact, experiential learning programs, we are also dedicated to “re-entry” programs that allow participants to use their language and intercultural skills to gain meaningful employment with organizations that value working across cultures.

As we see language (and access to information often submerged in colonial and neo-colonial omissions) as the key to opening communication between diasporic communities, we take on a select number of translation projects that hold cultural or historical importance. In addition to translating between languages (Portuguese, Spanish, English), we offer translation strategy consulting: we help organizations with missions that we support understand how communication will translate cross-culturally before the actual process of translating begins. This ability to assess branding, advertising, and the public communications of organizations through the lens of translation and the translatability has led to great savings for our partners. We also take on content editing projects in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Before founding Sirocco Blue, lead facilitator Jacob Dyer Spiegel, served as the head of Laspau-Harvard University’s traditional scholarship programs for Latin America and the Caribbean. In that function, Jacob led institutional relations with the major scholarship providers to students from Latin America and the Caribbean (Science Without Borders, Fulbright, Kellogg, OAS, just to mention a few) and he oversaw the selection and placement processes for all programs. Central to college admissions and to scholarship applications, especially when standardized test requirements have been waived, the importance of the personal statement and statement of purpose has only increased. Based on this, Sirocco Blue offers comprehensive college admissions consulting as well as a specific methodology for developing and improving the statements needed to gain entry into institutions and with full funding. Our services include preparatory schools at the secondary level, as well.

Sirocco Blue staff reviews and promotes local businesses (starting with Boston and the 5-Colleges) that either participate in or are related to the cultural and linguistic “territory” of the Sirocco. Our objective is to highlight services and create natural synergies between local organizations.

As we approach what we term “Sirocco aesthetics” and attempt to build toward a moving Sirocco Theory, our staff—especially seen in our photography and art installations—works in partnership with a major Boston-based commercial and residential construction company, and an architecture-interior designer on Space and Spatial Management projects. These two organizations work from the concepts of open, adaptable space that is built around natural light, wind, and completely eco-friendly and green.

Finally, in partnership with local engineering students, Sirocco Blue is raising funds for a renewable energy pilot based on wind, naturally. Over the summer we hope to unroll and describe this new program! Please stay tuned for more writing on the topic!

Outlining a Sirocco Approach

Sirocco (from the Arabic, sharq, which means “East”) is a term which refers to the seasonal winds that originate in the Sahara Desert, move across the Mediterranean Sea, and later transform the climate of Spain (where it is also called Siroco and sometimes Leveche), Portugal (Xaroco), France (Marín), Italy (Sirocco or Scirocco), and countries farther east like Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan where the wind system is called Simoom.

map slide courtesy of

In terms of their eastward movement also also as a kind of metaphor for cultural connections, these wind patterns connect North Africa, Andalusia, and though indirectly, India (the Roma motherland), and are an endless source of creative inspiration especially in flamenco song lyrics and compositions.

Paco_De_Lucia-Siroco-FrontalThe Sirocco’s movement across the Mediterranean can be understood as a metaphor for the complex history of groups that encountered, re-encountered, or, perhaps in most basic terms “crossed” in places like Andalusia (Roma, Sephardic Jews, Berbers, Moors, and West African “negros libres” were some of those groups). The crossing of these cultural groups transformed Andalusia and, to varying extents, other areas marked by the Sirocco winds. The wind system, then, embodies a trajectory that mirrors incredible cultural and artistic crossings. That is our inspiration: to explain the wind system, to explain how it generates other wind systems, and to discuss the montage of cultural patterns that the Sirocco embodies.

Though we are particularly fascinated by Andalusia and Andalusian influence on new world forms (forms that carry reference to the Sirocco, sometimes literally and sometimes  metaphorically) wind system appears in the incredible work of Kiev-born artist, Elena Kotliarker, who invokes Kabbalah and Jewish symbolism in her work:

sirocco elena

The Sirocco winds have impacted architectural forms in Sicily, too. A Manfredi Saeli and Enrico Saeli article in the Journal of Cultural Heritage explores the topic. These Sirocco rooms were underground because of the extreme heat that the winds carried from North Africa. Related to this study, a sustainable approach to modern building techniques in Sicily produced this fascinating statement:

“The traditional architecture of the Mediterranean Basin has been strongly influenced by the particular climatic and environmental conditions, by respecting in an unconscious way the sustainable criteria, which many contemporary architects tend to. Actually, the “Sirocco’s Room” typical of the old villas in the countryside of Palermo, the “Covoli” of Costozza as well as the Iranian “Towers of wind”, were able to guarantee the comfort inside the buildings without energetic consumption. So, the sun and the wind have become the “design materials” that we have used in order to renovate the building.” (Corrao, Balsamo, Calabrò, Di Stefano, Spera)

The Towers of Wind of Iran, lines of continuity emerge through the architectural “response” to the wind and climate system.

The Sirocco has impacted architectural forms from Persia to Italy to Spain. Consciously or unconsciously, it becomes embedded in many types of cultural forms, and those forms generate spaces and cultural practices.

We look forward to sharing more on this topic, the “operational system” of this blog and source of inspiration for our creative work in writing, photography, and even study abroad program development.




The government, army, and people of Spain have implemented “cleansing” strategies, round-ups, massacres, forced removals, expulsions, and genocide against the Romani people for centuries but they will never stop the legacy. Here, Juana, the mother of Camarón de la Isla:

There is something to be said of the way in which this youtube video was mounted by “sudyma.” The clip opens with a still-image of Juana (and an older Camarón sings to the black and white portrait of his mother. The framing itself suggests that the “llorao”–the “cry” of homage–is an ode to Camarón’s mother, but it is also an homage to the generations of Romani musicians that came before him. The thread is the cry of “ay” and it winds through the great innovators of the tradition.

Sudyma’s frame moves from left to right with Camarón’s call and we are transposed into the voice of his mother, Juana.

As Camarón sings, years later, into the future, he is singing into the past, in honor of the lineage he comes from. The ability to summon the past as it moves into the unpredictable future, or a voice that carries past, present, and future together is duende.

Juana’s song is an echo of Niña de los Peines’ inflections, as she sings “gugurú,” too:

The illustrious line translates into La Paquera, the mothers of the tradition:

Traveling, Translating Jaleo

Walking through Granada, Málaga, Sevilla, and the streets of other cities, towns, and villages in Andalucía (the southernmost region of Spain), you will most likely see signs that feature phrases like “aqui se habla andaluz.” The phrase — “here we speak Andaluz” or “Andaluz is spoken here” — became the catch slogan of an Andalusia regional political party (el Partido Andalucista).

You may even be lucky enough to see the following sign:

To translate, “speak well, speak Andaluz”: an affirmation of Andalusia’s own language variety, and a jab    at a history of Castillian linguistic imposition. Andaluz is to some a language, to others a dialect, and to others who don’t care much for labels, a fascinating code that holds within in its lexicon and syntax, centuries of history and cultures in contact.

Alé and Olé — words that are used to celebrate splendor, to congratulate, to emphasize grandeur, and to applaud – come out of Andalusia’s Islmic-influenced period (711-forever) in which thirty-plus generations were speaking in numerous varieties of Arabic, Spanish, Hebrew, Calé, and several West African languages. Those words came out of the Arabic and signify praise of Allah – Alé, Olé. Ojalá – “hopefully” — is another example of Arabic influence on Spanish. The term literarlly means, “if Allah wishes,” and it is used as often as “si dios quiere” or “god willing.” Ojalá, a word that conjures up Spain’s eight centuries at the center of the Islamic world, and crossed the Atlantic along with hundreds of thousands of Andalusians after 1492. In the New World, it is a living reminder of cultural crossroads and continues to nourish American Spanish, from Tierra del Fuego to Toronto. Cultural memory is crystalized in lexicon.

Like “Olé” and “Alé”, “Jaleo” is another example of words from the Arabic that have transfored Spanish language and culture, both in Andalusia and beyond. Most linguists argue that “Jaleo” is derived from the Spanish word of praise, “¡Hala!” As seen in the footnote below, “¡Hala!” is used to express splendor or surprise, to encourage (perhaps with the objective of persuading a person to do something). “Hala” is often spelled “Ala” – a denomination that indicates a strong connection to “Allah” (as we saw in the word, “Alé.” Interstingly but not suprisingly, La Real Academia does not even mention the possibility of a connection between “Ala” and “Allah”, between “Hala” and its Arabic history.

“Jaleo” — the action or result of “Jalear”, synonymous with “Alé” and “Olé” in seeral contexts — refers to festivity, the party of all parties, excitement rooted in centruies of celebrations. As an utterance it signifies encouragement, approval, and “recognition of the duende” – the moment at which spiritual and physical realms intersect, opening possibilities, transforming space and time as we know them (see Lorca). That recognition is accompanied, propelled, and animated by palmeadas (“handclapping”), ademánes (a word also from the Arabic aḍḍíman or aḍḍamán that refers to “body movements and gestures” that incite energy), and expressions like “toma que toma, aire, alé, olé, canta bien, toca bien” that bestow praise upon an artist or performer, and encourage him or her to push the limits; to transcend. Loud, transcendental noise – often in the form of shouting — is implied in the term, as is confusion and disorder: lines and boundaries blur and new potentialities arise.

And “Jaleo” also denotes the “ojear de la caza” – to chase away, to make an animal or person flee until they are trapped, or more simply, to force a person or animal to leave. “Ojear” / “Ojeo” does come from the Arabic, “ušš” – and it conjures up images of a powerful chase, followed by the surrounding of a body. The action of surrounding implied in the term “jaleo” may also conjure up the circle formations that are integral to the flow of the spirit in Flamenco as seen in the song, Arrincónamela – “surround her” – in Tony Gatlif’s film Vengo and described in a previous lenguamente artcle, “Following Gatlif’s Sirrocco.”

“Jaleo” is also the name of a style of Flamenco said to have its origins in the Andalusian cities of Jerez de la Frontera and Cádiz. It is considered by Flamenco historians to be an integral part of the Roma (“Gypsy”) musical tradition; in fact, the “complex rhythmic hand-clapping, guitar-slapping, finger-snapping and vocal outbursts” known as “jaleo” is at the center of duende — the point at which the music transcends and can transport the listener to new dimensions (SaudiAramco).  The word itself is featured in the powerful flamenco song, “Anda Jaleo” performed by Carmen Linares and countless others: an homage to a Roma tradition of “jaleo” and “duende” that refers back to itself.

Yo me subí a un pino verde
por ver si la divisaba,
y sólo divisé el polvo
del coche que la llevaba.

Anda jaleo, jaleo;
ya se acabó el alboroto
y ahora empieza el tiroteo.

En la calle de los muros
mataron a una paloma.
Yo cortaré con mis manos
las flores de su corona.

Anda jaleo, jaleo;
ya se acabó el alboroto
y ahora empieza el tiroteo.

No salgas, paloma, al campo,
mira que soy cazador,
y si te tiro y te mato
para mi será el dolor,
para mi será el quebranto.

Anda jaleo, jaleo;
ya se acabó el alboroto
y ahora empieza el tiroteo.

The song comes from Federico García Lorca’s poem, “Anda Jaleo”, and we see in its lyrics the reference to shouting, loud noise, and to the hunter who engages in the pursuit and surrounding of the hunted; a “paloma” or dove laced with refrences to the bible, Spanish Roma philosophy, and multi-layered symbolism that links North Africa, India (the Roma motherlnd), West Africa, Spain, and the Americas. We see a rhythmic pattern that is centered on the repeating utterance of “jaleo”, a word that seems to epitomize seeing from above, perception, perhaps of the crashing/clashing of worlds re-encountering each other that is to come throught the onset of duende. To acheive this duende, sacrifice is necessary: en la calle de los muros (“in the walled street”, a reference to the interior labryinth of the medina in Andalusia’s urban center districts SEE IMAGE) / mataron a una paloma (a dove was killed). How it was killed is steeped in ritual that points to a Sirocco continuum — Yo cortaré con mis manos / las flores de su corona (With my hands I will cut / the flowers of its crown) — that, like the wind patterns, could very well link cultural and religious practices from West and North Africa to Spain an then the New World.

In the Carmen Linares interpreatation, the encouragement aspect of the term “jaleo” is in the form of the song itself. Dualties come from all sides: Anda Jaleo: “anda” being a celebratory exclamation of the power of the word, concept, and the duende that song song reaches, (see “Anda Guiro”, Cuban Rumba’s exclamation, one that comes out of the “Jaleo” form of Flamenco, of the power of the Guiro), a testement of the mysterious opening. Indirectly, “anda jaleo” may also imply how Jaleo moves (jaleo anda / jaleo walks or moves) through cultures, nations, and menaings. And there is no question that “Anda Jaleo” gets deep into the realm of spirit work that is alive and in-tact in Andalusia – one of many reasons why we see New World altars showered with Gitana imagery (see Robert Farris Thompson’s book on African and African American religious altars, Face of the Gods).

Jaleo — word, aesthetic practice and philosphy, music style, and song/poem — crossed the Atlantic to the New World and enlivened aesthettic, philosophical, and cultural practices with a proud spirit of celebration. As a word, “jaleo” found its way into all registers of speech from Montevideo, to Santo Domingo, to New York City. As a musical style, “Jaleo” has deeply influenced Cuban Rumba, Mambo, and later Salsa (among other musical forms). It enters Salvador da Bahia’s Samba de Raiz, the Perico Ripiao of the Dominican Republic, the Milongas of Buenos Aires that inspired writers like Jorge Luís Borges (see Robert Farris Thompson’s book, “Tango: Art History of Love” for more on those endless labryinths of influence), and it is the name of the final part of traditional Dominican Merengue. And the song/poem, “Anda Jaleo”, taps into the realm of spirit work that links and re-links religious and cultural practices in the Roma Iberian Peninsula and the black Atlantic. “Jaleo” illuminates crossroads stacked upon each other; that multi-layered, multi-directional contact becomes part of the “celebration” that the words signifies.

The word “jaleo” is what many linguists call a “regionalism.” The word is an example of lexicon — derived from Arabic — that was once particular to Andalusia, later to other regions of Spain like Extremadura (see “jaleo de extremadura) and to the New World. But “jaleo” quickly moves beyond a “regionalism”: it is one of thousands of words of Arabic origin that have transformed the language of Andalusia and the Spanish-speaking world. So what is implied when one states: “Habla bien, habla Andaluz”? Speak well, speak and know Mozarabe, Andalusi, Arabic. “Here we speak Andaluz”: words rooted in Spain’s most advanced period of enlightenment, its proudest contributions to the world of science, math, astronomy, physics, medicine, water management, architecture: an affirmation of pride.

Calo in Cuba

In his book, Inmigración y lengua nacional (Editorial Academia, La Habana: 1994), the renowned Cuban linguist, Sergio Valdes Bernal compiled a list of words from the Caló language that are used in popular Cuban speech. Caló is the language of the Spanish Roma (the group known as “gitanos” in Spain, “Gypsies” in English, and “ciganos” in Portuguese). The list includes words such as, ‘jamar’, ‘sandunga’, ‘chusma’, ‘mangar’, ‘furnia’, and ‘chaval’ that are widely used in Cuba and not only among the lower social classes, as many linguists have stated. The Caló language has profoundly influenced the Spanish spoken in Andalusia (the region of southern Spain) and, as Valdés Bernal has indicated through his analysis of Cuba speach, areas where Andalusians settled in the New World. Since Andalusians were one of the largest groups of Spaniards to emigrate to the Americas, the influence of Caló lexicon can be looked at as one of many unifying characteristics of the Spanish spoken in the New World.

These linguistic contributions could be been seen as icons that indicate a much larger transculturation that took place in Andalusia and later in the Americas. Along with dozens of words that Valdés Bernal has identified as so-called “gitanismos” (‘Gypsyisms’) in Cuban Spanish, there are also strong remnants of Roma culture in the religious imagery and musical traditions of Cuba, to mention only two areas of influence.

The Andalusian and Romaní influence on Cuban music is yet another example of the vast connections between these cultures. From “el llorao” (the cry that often opens Flamenco and Cuban Rumba numbers and appears in emotionally climatical moments), to “el laleo” (the harmonious and rhtymic use of the sound ‘la’ in Flamenco and Rumba), to dance steps, it becomes clear that what we see in terms of Caló influence on Cuban Spanish is a small part of a more expansive dialogue between Roma, Andalusian, and Cuban cultures.

A list of Caló words used in Cuba (Valdes Bernal, Sergio. Inmigración y lengua nacional. Editorial Academia, La Habana: 1994):

Acurdar. Emborrachar
Achuntar. Sujetar
Acharés. Dar
Alares o jalares. Pantalones
Andoba. Nombre propio, por fulano, el que esta a la vista
Baré o Barí. Bueno, a propósito, completo
Belén. Amor, alboroto, enredo, zafacoca, cuento, confusión
Berri o Berro. Cólera, coraje, berrinche
Birlar. Quitar a uno valiéndose de alguna intriga, estafar, engañar
Bisnar o Binar. Vender
Bureo. Paseo
Butén. De primera
Caló. Habla gitano
Camelar. Engañar
Camelo. Enano, estafa, decepción
Coba. Halago o adulación fingida
Cúmbila. Camarada, amigo de confianza, lobo de la misma camada
Cuna. Gente de barrio, rincón, esquina
Curda. Embriaguez, borrachera
Chalao. Loco
Chaladura. Locura
Chamullar. Hablar
Chamullo. Conversación
Changüí. Broma, engaño
Chapatalear. Nadar
Chaval. Joven
Chiringa. Un papalote pequeño o volatín con que juegan los muchachos. de uso exclamativo.
Chiva o Chivato.  Soplón, delator
Chola. Juicio
Chunga. Broma, guasa, burla festiva,
Chusma. Muchedumbre de baja categoría
Espichar. Morir, perecer
Furnia. Cueva, cavidad
Garito. Casa de juego
Guillarse. Irse, hacerse pasar por algo distinto de lo que se es, volverse loco,  hacerse el loco, ir de prisa, enloquecer
Jamar. Comer
Jarana. Fiesta, diversión
Jaranear. Hablar en broma
Jaranero. Bromista
Jeta. Cara, hocico
Jindama. Miedo, cobardía
Jiñar. Defecar, ensuciar, apestar, orinar
Jiribilla. Mujer que tiene sal, gracia, donaire. Astucia, sagacidad
Mangar. Pedir, mendignar, disfrutar, percibir, aprovechar algo
Manguindó. Hombre holgazán, que anda de vicioso en donde quiera, presentándose al estilo de tonto y frecuentemente de gorra
Mangué. Equivale l pronombre personal me, mi
Menda. Yo
Pargo. Bugarrón
Parguela. Homosexual
Piratear. Fornicar
Pirar. Ir, andar a alguna parte
Postín. Importancia, rango, brillo, lujo
Prajo. Cigarro
Puró. Padre, el viejo
Sandunga. Gracia, donaire, garbo
Sornar, surnar. Dormir

This transatlantic continuity, one that reaches back to India and speaks of the profound impact of Roma culture on Spain and the Americas, is also one pillar of what we are trying to understand as a system of cultural patterns that embody the Sirocco region and that travel like the Sirocco winds.


Translating Code-Sliding

The previous post on Os Doces Bárbaros explored a song that moves between Yoruba and Portuguese. That movement is part of the cultural context of Brazil, especially African Brazil. In some ways, the song is not an example of code-sliding: swithcing between Yoruba and Portuguese informs a great part of the Brazilian-Portuguese language. A similar relationship between languages exists in Spain. We see the convergence of languages clearly in Flamenco, where Andalusian Spanish and Calé (often called Caló), the language of the Spanish Romani, flow together. The joining of languages is already part of the linguistic map of Andalusia: Spanish, especially as spoken in the south, is heavily influenced by Calé and it is common to hear Spanish and Calé spoken together in Romani communities. Here, we have the great Camarón de la Isla singing in Calé and n important space for Romani-Andalusion expression is claimed:

One scholar transcribed and translated this fragment as follows:

Calé-Andalusian Spanish
Cuando estiñaba estardo
Mi Rumi, Mi Rumi
Bajó a esquinar
Me trajo un balichó
Y cuatro o cinco balñas

Spanish (back-translation)
Cuando estaba preso
mi mujer, mi mujer
bajó a robar
me trajo un cerdo
y cuatro o cinco barras de pan

English (back-translation)
When I was in the cage
My wife, my wife
Would steal
She’d bring me a pig
and four or five loaves of bread

“Me trajo un cerdo”  is clearly from the Spanish, as is “y cuatro o cinco.” These words exist alongside the Calé–that movement between codes is part of Spanish Romani diglossic, bilingual culture. So, how does one preserve that diglossia or bilingual expression in a translation? The use of Calé, particularly because Camarón represents Romani/gitano culture in Spain and beyond, is integral to the song’s meaning. The form of the message, then, carries as much meaning as the actual lyrics. The translator, then, can look for similar relationships between languages in the target culture. The translator can also bend the language of the target culture, if there is nothing that resembles the crossing of Spanish and Calé in Andalusia, so that there are spaces of tension that call the listener’s attention to multiple movements. One thing is clear: a strategy for representing the relationship between language varieties must include both linguistic meaning (Spanish and Calé into the target language) and the formal co-existence, in terms of form, of Spanish and Calé alongside each other.