Guajira (music)

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Guajira (Spanish: música guajira [ˈmusika ɣwaˈxiɾa], meaning "country music" in Cuban Spanish) is a musical form which evokes a rural ambience in its texts, instrumentation and style.

In the years around 1900 a style of guajira emerged in association with Cuban music theater, especially as composed by Jorge Anckermann.

This genre had some similarity to the criolla[1] and, to a lesser extent, the punto.[2] It contains bucolic countryside lyrics, rhyming, similar to décima poetry. The music is a mixture of 3/4 and 6/8 rhythms. According to Sánchez de Fuentes, its first section is in a minor key, its second section in a major key.[3]

In general, the songs in this repertoire are no longer well known in Cuba. Hence, for most Cubans, "guajira" connotes a quite different genre that emerged in the 1930s, as a sort of fusion of the son and the guajira, the "guajira-son," in 4/4 time. It resembled the son in rhythm, but presented a rural ethos by foregrounding the guitar (or tres) more than horns, percussion, or piano.

The guajira could be sung by a single musician accompanying himself on guitar;[4] see trova. The lyrics of the guajira typically extol the beauty of the Cuban countryside and the lifestyle of the guajiros (countryside peasants).[5]


Guajira was refined and popularized by the Cuban singer-songwriter and guitarist Guillermo Portabales, whose elegant style has become known as guajira de salón. From the 1930s until his death in a traffic accident in Puerto Rico in 1970, Portabales recorded and performed salon guajira throughout North and South America to tremendous popular acclaim. Guantanamera, in the form composed and recorded by Joseito Fernández, is a guajira-son which has been covered by many singers and groups.

Bob Marley And The Wailers recorded a song called Guajira Ska in 1964. As the title implies, it was a fusion of guajira and ska.

Other notable "Guajira' bands include Cuban country act Trio Matamoros, who recorded most of their songs from 1928 - 1931.

Spanish version[edit]

A Spanish variant of the Guajira has evolved into a form of flamenco cante (song-type).[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Orovio, Helio 2004. Cuban music from A to Z. p101
  2. ^ Linares, María Teresa 1999. El punto cubano. La Habana
  3. ^ Sánchez de Fuentes, Eduardo 1923. El folklore en la música cubana. La Habana. p56
  4. ^ Orovio, Helio 1981. Diccionario de la música cubana. La Habana, Editorial Letras Cubanas. ISBN 959-10-0048-0
  5. ^ Alén, Olavo 1994. De lo afro a la salsa. [From Afrocuban music to salsa] La Habana, Ediciones ARTEX.
  6. ^ Manuel, Peter 2004. The guajira between Cuba and Spain: a study in continuity and change. Latin American Music Review, 22.09.04.
  7. ^ Maria Teresa Linares and Victoria Eli, with Faustino Nunez and Maria de los Angeles Alfonso Rodriguez. 1998, 1999. La musica entre Cuba y Espana
  • Manuel, Peter 2004. The guajira between Cuba and Spain: a study in continuity and change. Latin American Music Review. 25/2, p137-62.