Multiculturality, Music

Seventeen once again – Volver a los diecisiete

Alicia’s rich mezzo-soprano voice, especially combined with the powerful lyrics of this song, gives me goosebumps. The audio is a little distorted because the volume overdrove my phone’s microphone, but it should give you a taste of Colombia’s greatest female voice singing an absolutely lovely song. I recorded it two weeks ago at the Cali Viejo restaurant in Brandon, FL.

Alicia, being a professional musician, doesn’t like having unauthorized videos or recordings made public, so this may only be up a few hours or days. She’s presently in Colombia trying to get health insurance for her son. When she gets back, she will be singing every other weekend at the restaurant. Her sister Angela is there every Friday. (Don’t forget to say hi to the tall gringo with the ponytail.)

The song was written by Violeta Parra, the Chilean ethnomusicologist and artist. Translated lyrics are below.  (Translating them has been a very moving experience. I started from someone else’s draft and made many changes.)

To be seventeen once again after living a century
is like deciphering signs without wisdom or skill,
suddenly, again, as fragile as a second,
with all the solemnity of a child before God.
That is what I feel in this fertile instant.

Twining, entangling it grows like the ivy on the wall
It sprouts and blooms like moss on the stone.
Like moss on the stone, oh yes yes yes

My steps withdraw while yours keep advancing
The arch of alliances has penetrated my nest
With its full palette of color it has wandered through my veins
and even the hard chain with which destiny binds us
is like a fine diamond that illuminates my serene soul.

Emotion has accomplished what knowledge cannot
neither the most clearcut behavior or the broadest thought
The moment changes everything like an obliging magician
It removes us sweetly from rancor and violence
Only love with its science can make us so innocent.

Love is a whirlwind of original purity
Even the fierce animal whispers its sweet trill
It halts the pilgrims and frees the prisoners
Love, so hard-working, turns the aged into a child
and only kind affection can make evil men pure and sincere.

The window flew open as if by pure enchantment
Love entered with its blanket, like a warm morning
At the sound of its beautiful reveille, the jasmine burst into bloom
Flying like a seraph, love placed earrings in the sky
and the cherub made me seventeen once again

Mercedes Sosa is famous for performing Violeta Parra’s music:


11 thoughts on “Seventeen once again – Volver a los diecisiete

    • She’s working on several projects but unfortunately nothing is finished. Her earlier records are out of print. It’s slow going when the work is self-published. Very hard to get a recording contract in Colombia now; all the record companies left because of the piracy problem.

      • Yes, I’ve heard it’s very difficult. My son raised $$ and put out a CD of his music some years ago. It was a lot of hard work. (He plays piano, keyboard and writes and sings his own songs.)
        If Alicia, or Alicia and her sister, ever produce their own CD…let me know. I’d love to buy it!
        HUGS!!! 🙂

  1. Your wife sings beautifully! I miss singing in the church choir. I remember Mercedes Sosa performing with Shakira before she passed away in 2009. She was an amazing singer/songwriter. I don’t know much about Violeta Parra gonna look her up later. Have a great weekend! 🙂

  2. happyobligations says:

    hello there, i see you’re from xanga as well. what was your username? I’m sorry i don’t recognize you from pictures or your current username on wordpress.

    your wife indeed does have a very nice voice. the original song reminds me a little bit of victor jara for some reason.

    reading back on your posts is very interesting. seems you are either colombian, or your wife is, or you decided to go there for your wedding for some reason. in any case, i think it’s very interesting and your job as a translator is fascinating as well! looking forward to reading more.

    • I have the same screen name over here (Roadkill_Spatula) as on Xanga.

      Violeta Parra and Victor Jara were both Chilean folk singers; Parra’s music influenced Jara. Mercedes Sosa sang songs by both of them.

      I grew up in Colombia. My parents were missionaries there. My wife and I first met when I was in high school, then we didn’t see each other for 35 years. Three years ago we got reacquainted and immediately fell in love. We got married last year and moved to Tampa. I’ve really enjoyed getting back in touch with Colombian culture after so many years away. I travel down there twice a year. My wife is down there right now, taking care of some business and working on her recordings.

      • happyobligations says:

        what an amazing story! how do you feel about the differences between colombia and florida (and its latin culture there? cuban?…)?

        • I lived in Miami for a couple of years, and enjoyed being around Cubans, although they are different from Colombians. Here in Tampa we have contact with a fair number of Colombians and Venezuelans, and have a Latin grocery store a few blocks away, as well as a Colombian restaurant. We can get some of the fruits and vegetables but not all.

          • happyobligations says:

            that’s really cool! i always wanted to go to south america and i still do. being in california gives me a lot of context of mexican culture since it’s such a big part of californian history, but i’ve only learned things here and there about south american countries and spain, and even that much is mostly the historical background.

            i’ve been to miami before, but that was 12 years ago (wow! time flies) and i hardly explored any of the culture there aside from the tourist beaches and such.

            i’m thinking of going to florida again actually (probably not anytime in the near future though). it’s been so long. anything you recommend i see or do?

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