Traditional Music

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Traditional Music
There are all types of traditional music, from all different countries. I chose to work with a song that will be familiar to everyone: La Bamba

  1. What do you think of when you hear “La Bamba”? Possible answers:

    1. Richie Valens; rock and roll

    2. Los Lobos (who sang it in the 1987 movie La Bamba about Richie Valens’ life)

    3. A traditional wedding song

    4. The only song not sung in English on Rolling Stone’s magazine list of the 500 Greatest songs of all time (#345)

    5. Weird Al Yankovic parody called Lasagna?

    6. The anthem of the Liverpool football club (with adapted lyrics)

    7. The fact that people/groups as diverse as The Sandpipers, Trini Lopez, Dusty Springfield, Neil Diamond, Wyclef Jean, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a Japanese ska band called Yum Yum Orange have all recorded it?

  1. Play the song

  1. Fascinating facts about La Bamba.

    1. This song was created in the state of Veracruz, Mexico over 300 years ago.

    2. Influenced by Spanish flamenco and African rhythms

    3. It officially is not a song but a “son”…a musical variation which includes the tradition of creating verses on the spot by whomever may be singing.

    4. The song is in a very simple verse/chorus form, with literally a thousand different verses.

    5. There is no literal translation in English for La Bamba, it is assumed to be connected with the Spanish verb “bambolear” meaning to shake.

    6. The traditional “La Bamba” was played during weddings, where the bride and groom performed the accompanying dance. This tradition continues today in the famed Ballet Folklórico, where the dancers perform a series of complicated steps demonstrating the unison of the couple through the creation of a bow from a long red ribbon, using only their feet.

  2. The words

    1. The repeated phrase: Yo no soy marinero…meaning I am not a sailor: to be interpreted that unlike a sailor, the husband will remain faithful to his wife. Fits in with the marine locale of Veracruz

    2. The repeated “arribas” literally meaning “Up”, are the part of the song that suggest the nature of the dance, which is all in the footwork…..done faster and faster as the music accelerates. The footwork is known as Zapateado

  3. How to work with the song

    1. Have the students listen first; you might want to show them some target words:

      1. marinero

      2. arriba

      3. gracia

      4. una poca

      5. cosita

Later these words can be put together to create associations and clusters of words. You also could just give them the English words for the above 5 and ask them to listen for the Spanish equivalent

    1. Ask them what they think the song is about

    2. Did they recognize any words

    3. Can they tell if the song is happy, sad, etc.

    4. Use a worksheet with missing lyrics (the target words above) or a worksheet that has many words and they must circle the words actually in the song; or give them the complete lyrics

    5. Work with the pronunciation, the vocabulary or a grammatical concept:

      1. the use of NO for NOT and it’s location in the Spanish sentence is a good one:

Yo NO soy marinero does not mean I Not a sailor

      1. you could look at masculine/feminine forms

      2. present tense verbs

      3. the future tense “Por ti sere”

    1. Sing the song; split the class and have one half sing against the other half Use some Latin instruments

    2. Dance the song: have groups create a dance

    3. Create new lyrics, in groups, to the song (which is what we did) and sing them to the class

      1. para cantar la bamba

      2. para comer los tacos

      3. para dar una caminata

    4. Introduce the history, culture of the area that produced this song, with a clip of the Ballet Folklorico if you can find it.

    5. Show the Richie Valens movie: La Bamba, compare version of La Bamba

V. Additional Resources


This is a complete lesson on La Bamba with

    1. lyrics and music

    2. Spanish pronunciation

    3. accent marks

    4. alphabet

    5. masculine/feminine

    6. plurals

    7. the future

    8. a listening test

    9. a quiz

10. a puzzle


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