To discover more about the origins of parang let us return to Spain with Columbus and his joyous mariners in the year 1498 before the start of their third voyage to the Indies.

These men come from different regions: Castile, Leon, Extremadura, and most of all Andalusia in the south. We know that theirs is a land where Arabs, Jews and Christians lived together since the year 711, for centuries, and that just as recently as 1492 the last Arab king was defeated in Granada. The Arab presence and influence are real and pervasive in all aspects of life including music and song. 

The villancico, which is one of the earliest manifestations of Spanish oral poetry, probably had its origin in eleventh century popular Spanish Arabic poetry and was influenced by popular Galician-Portuguese poetry as well. The theme originally centred on love, and mundane events of village life, but in later centuries it was mostly religious and almost exclusively focussed on the birth of Jesus Christ. Its form was flexible and consisted of stanzas of three lines of variable length with an estribillo, that is, lines repeated after each stanza.

Medieval Villancico

En la fuente del rosel         In the fountain of the rose garden
Lavan la niña y el doncel      the maid and the prince wash
En la fuente de agua clara     In the fountain of clear water
Con sus manos lavan la cara    they wash with their hands
Él a ella y ella a él.         He washes her face and she washes his. 
Lavan la niña y el doncel      The maid and the prince wash
En la fuente de agua clara     in the fountain of clear water,
Lavan la niña y el doncel.     The maid and the prince. 

By the mid fifteenth century the villancico had become a literary genre adopted by the most influential poets of the period. Juan del Encina (1468-1529) composer of Más vale trocar (See earlier Blog) is also the author of this villancico a lo divino (or carol).

VILLANCICO Juan Del Encina

Todos se deven gozar             Everyone should rejoice
en Cristo ressucitar.            Rising with Christ 
Pues que su triste passión       His mournful passion
fue para resurreción,            was for the resurrection
con muy gran consolación         with great consolation
nos devemos alegrar.             We should rejoice.
Cristo, por nos redemir,         For our redemption
gran passión quiso sufrir;       Christ suffered his passion
con su precioso morir            With his precious death
la vida nos quiso dar.           He chose to give us life.
Si fue muy grande el dolor       Though the pain was profound
el plazer es muy mayor           the joy is much greater
viendo a nuestro Redentor        seeing our Redeemer
de muerte ressucitar.            Rise from death.
Fin                              End
Por tan ecelente bien            For such an excellent gift
las gracias a Dios se den,       Give thanks to God.
digamos todos amén               Let us all say Amen
por santamente acabar.           To finish in holiness. 

At the same time a variety of poetry such as romances (ballads), seguidillas, and serranillas gained currency among the ordinary people. The copla emerged within these poetic compositions like these two strophes from the folk tradition:

Madre, aquellas sierras       Mother, those hills
Llenas son de flores          Are covered with flowers
Encima de ellas               At the very top of them all
Tengo mis amores              I have my love
Ya se van los pastores        The shepherds are leaving
A Extremadura.                For Extremadura.
Ya se queda la sierra         The hills have now become
Triste y oscura.              Sad and gloomy. 

It is highly probable that those merry mariners on the south of Trinidad in 1498 were singing coplas and not the literary compositions of Juan del Encina.  In fact, the Spanish conquistadors, adventurers and colonists of the sixteenth century were familiar with the oral tradition. There is evidence that Hernán Cortés (1485-1547), the well known conquistador of Mexico, and his soldiers could quote from popular ballads, and coplas reciting or singing lines that applied to their circumstances.

The copla was transported to the overseas territories of America where the Spaniards were establishing themselves during the expansion of their empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was a semi literary composition, steeped in folk culture, and with a well defined structure which persists today. The form of the copla is still a four-line stanza (quatrain), each line consisting of either six or eight syllables, with rhyme in the first and third or second and fourth line (verse). These coplas became ingrained in the oral tradition across the Americas including Venezuela and Trinidad.  In 1968 this copla was sung by Rita Guerra from Tabaquite, Trinidad.

Salgan para fuera      (Come outside
Mirarán primores       Behold a splendid sight.
Verán el patio         You will see the yard
Cubierto de flores     Covered with flowers.) 

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