Monday, June 21, 2010

Silvio takes Washington (Updated)

I don’t know much about Silvio Rodriguez or his music, so I attended his concert here Saturday night to take things in. (EFE story here; New York Times review of his Carnegie Hall concert here.)

He played in Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall (DAR as in Daughters of the American Revolution), an airplane hangar-like venue where, giving credit where it’s due, the sound engineers did a terrific job.

If you don’t know him, he’s a singer, songwriter, and guitarist comparable – very loosely – to Bob Dylan in that his poetry, not simply his music, draws you in. And if you were as clueless as I was, you would have learned Saturday night that the guy is a cultural icon in our hemisphere.

Rodriguez led a fine sextet that included a young, spectacular tres player who was given too few chances to shine, and who I’m sure would have sold the place out if it had been announced that he would headline a concert the next day.

In the event, Saturday’s crowd half-filled the hall, perhaps – with all due respect to the artists – because ticket prices were through the roof.

When it came to the crowd’s emotions, it was standing-room only. There were Cubans there, but also people from throughout Latin America; if there were 3,000, it was this casual observer plus 2,999 who were, to put it very mildly, in the palm of his hand for more than two hours. The closest I can come to describing it is emotional clamor for a long-lost friend. Their connection to the music was intense; their applause drowned it out many times when particular verses or lyrics struck emotional chords. At times nearly all were singing along, so Rodriguez playfully rested and conducted the crowd to complete a verse, which it did in perfect unison.

Others can sort how much of Rodriguez’ appeal has to do with politics. He did call on President Obama, short and sweet, to free the Cuban Five.

There were shouted requests from the audience for all kinds of songs, including about love and breakup and nostalgia. Rodriguez obliged generously. With many old chestnuts out of the way, he closed with a number from his latest recording, titled Demasiado.

I found the lyrics on-line, and here they are:


Demasiado tiempo,
Demasiada sed
Para conformarnos
Con un breve sorbo
La única vez
Demasiada sombra,
Demasiado sol
Para encadenarnos
A una sola forma
Y una sola voz

Demasiadas bocas,
Demasiada piel
Para enamorarnos
De un mal gigantesco
Y un ínfimo bien
Demasiado espacio,
Demasiado azul
Para que lo inmenso
Quepa en un destello
Solo de la luz

Demasiado polvo,
Demasiada sal
Para que la vida
No busque consuelo
En el más allá
Demasiado nunca,
Demasiado no
Para tantas almas,
Para tantos sueños,
Para tanto amor

[EFE photo.]

Update: A translation, with an assist from a reader:

Too much

Too much time,
Too much thirst
To satisfy ourselves
With a brief sip
Only one time
Too much shade,
Too much sun
To chain ourselves
To a single way
And a single voice

Too many mouths,
Too much skin
To fall in love
With a gigantic evil
And a tiny good.
Too much space,
Too much blue
For immensity
To fit in one single flash
Of light

Too much dust,
Too much salt
For life
Not to seek consolation
In the hereafter
Too much never,
Too much no
For so many souls,
For so many dreams,
For so much love


bee said...

I agree about ticket prices--I looked into going, but couldn't afford it! And no student prices, either. Sad. Sounds like a great concert.

Matador said...

Here is a link to a great video I shot of Silvio performing Demasiado in Washington DC @ DAR on 5-19-2010.