SONG: Al Gurugu
ARTIST: La Nina de los Peines
Listen to it here:
This song is in the flamenco tradition, featuring La Nina’s voice, flamenco guitar, and hand clapping. The title, Al Gurugu, is apparently just a gibberish word, similar to naming a song in english doo-doo-doo-doo. Added to these gibberish words, La Nina then sang random lyrics that would come to mind. The result is a song without much narrative cohesiveness (washerwomen, a soldier going to war in France, and some pigeons). This song therefore leans into the traditions of flamenco music, but without its own history and heritage like many flamenco pieces have.
La Nina de los Peines was born Pastora Pavon Cruz in Seville, Spain in 1890. She is considered the most important woman flamenco singer of the 20th Century. Her entire family was a musical family steeped in the flamenco tradition. Her brothers were both important flamenco singers, and her nephew became the first flamenco pianist.
La Nina’s singing career began at age 8, when she started singing in public at fairs, and cafes. In these cafes she acquired the nickname La Nina de los Peines (The Girl of the Combs) based on a lyric of a song she often sang. As she grew older and was of age to sing in larger towns and venues, she moved around Spain singing in cafes. La Nina started making recordings in 1910, and by 1920 was the highest paid artist in Spain. In 1931, she married flamenco singer Pepe Pinto, and they toured together for years. La Nina de los Peines died in 1969 of dementia.
- Though she is listed everywhere as La Nina de los Peines and not as her birth name, Pastora Pavon Cruz hated this nickname.
Ok, when this song first started, I heard the guitar and hand claps and was like “alright! Flamenco”….and then the singing started. Oh no. I cannot get on board with her voice or her singing style. I’ve listened to a lot of flamenco singing and there is definitely better out there. I simply cannot tell what on earth she’s trying to convey – anger? Sorrow? Defiance? I just feel like I’m being yelled at. No bueno. The guitar playing is good though!
I’ve listened to this song quite a few times trying to wrap my mind around it, and what I think of it. I like the raw quality of the singing, and sometimes I love the ornamentations, and sometimes, to my ear, they sound completely over the top. I definitely like the aggressive, almost angry sound of the guitars and I like the way they interact with the voice, but I’m not sure. The overall effect is not my favourite. For some reason, all the things combined just don’t do it for me. Meh.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song (include youtube links when possible)
A very different interpretation from La Nina by Maria Jose Llergo (voice) and Marc Lopez (guitar)
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: