Babalu is the title of a Cuban song, written by Margarita Lecuona, the cousin of composers Ernestina and Ernesto Lecuona. The song title is either a reference to the Santería deity Babalu Aye or to Babalawo, the title of a Santería priest and diviner.
In the song's lyrics, the singer wonders aloud what to do with a statue of Babalú Ayé, now that a Santería rite had been invoked by others. He suggests that seventeen candles be lit up, in the shape of a cross, and that a cigar and aguardiente be brought to him, as to pay homage to the deity. He then requests good luck, love from his beloved woman, and safety and protection to both.
The song was first published in the United States in 1939 by Peer International. The first publication with an English translation (by Sydney King Russell) was in 1941.
Babalu was the signature song of the fictitious television character Ricky Ricardo, played by Desi Arnaz in the television comedy series I Love Lucy, though it was already an established musical number for Arnaz in the 1940s as evidenced in the 1946 film short Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra. By the time Arnaz had adopted the song, it had become a Latin American music standard, associated mainly with Cuban singer Miguelito Valdés, who recorded one of its many versions. Arnaz made the song a rather popular cultural reference in the United States.
Whenever Arnaz and his band played the song live, he would finish it with an extended conga solo and chorus-refrain section, mimicking Cuban comparsas (a popular genre usually associated with the city of Santiago de Cuba). This section has been quoted by other Cuban artists, most notably by Miami Sound Machine in their live presentations. The song has also been performed by Slim Gaillard.
A recent Ska rendition was recorded and performed by Ska Cubano a Mambo-Ska band from Britain made up of musicians and singers from many diverse countries.
- IN CHARACTER:Ricky Ricardo: The 'Mr. Babalu' Next Door By Felix Contreras for NPR Weekend Edition Sunday, May 18, 2008 "A Hit with Exotic Roots — And a Singer who Felt Familiar: Millions of Americanos tuned into I Love Lucy, and most of them probably didn't realize that Ricky Ricardo's signature song was a tribute to an Afro-Cuban god." Accessed September 19, 2008
- Lecuona, Margarita. ""Babalu in Worldcat"". Worldcat.org. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra (1946) - IMDb
- "Slim Gaillard: Babalu (orooney) – Jazz.com | Jazz Music – Jazz Artists – Jazz News". Jazz.com. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
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