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.)