Robin has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog Your Daily Dose. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info.
|A set of juggling clubs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
For effect you can listen to the music as you read the story below.
My earliest memories of music are the ones that involve the musical backing for my parents juggling act. When they performed they had live music. This was the performance norm in the 1950's. Any nightclub that provided entertainment had a house band. Stage show productions assembled union musicians to play the dates.
A professional act had to provide orchestral scores to the musicians if they wanted music back up. My father bought sheet music copies for a number of different instruments and eventually even went to the expense of hiring a professional to orchestrate some of the songs they used for their acts. All of the music was neatly organized into folders for each section of the orchestra. He was ready for a small combo or a big band--whatever the producers had provided for the acts.
Early on for my parents passing act they used songs like "Fine and Dandy" and "Happy Days Are Here Again". But my father wanted to create a perception of greater speed for an act where fast juggling was becoming what they were most noted for. They had developed an exciting act and wanted the music to match.
Though Latin music had been popular for decades, the fifties saw a surge in popularity of the Latin rhythms of the cha-cha, rumba, mambo and many other snappy percussive styles. The bands of Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat, and Desi Arnaz were well known to American audiences. This music did not slip past my father's ears as music ideal for fast juggling.
"El Cumbanchero" was a gold standard song of circus acts and entertainers looking for fast rhythms to back up what they were performing. The song was quite popular during the 1950's appearing on many albums and released as a single by many artists. I'm not sure when my parents first started using "El Cumbanchero", but I believe it may have been around 1957. The song became a staple performance song for the Juggling Jacksons duo act and then later for our four people act. Due to the fast paced excitement of the song it was used as the grand finale number for the fastest part of the act.
Sometimes the strains of "El Cumbanchero" echo in my mind as I recall the clap clap rhythm of juggling clubs flying among my family members slapping firmly into our hands. The driving rhythms made us want to pass the clubs faster and harder. If it was exciting for us I can only imagine the excitement the viewing audience must have felt. The applause during the performances and the accolades heard afterwards indicated that the audience enjoyed what they saw when we performed.
There are several songs that we, the Juggling Jacksons, used in our act, but "El Cumbanchero" is one that stands out most for me. Not only did I hear the song repeatedly as a child watching my parents perform, but it became my soundtrack feature song when I became part of the juggling act. Even now I'm juggling in my mind as I listen to the frantic strains of "El Cumbanchero".
Have you heard the song "El Cumbanchero" before? Is there any particular memory or situation that you associate with Latin rhythmic music? Is there a certain song that you would associate with a work situation in your own life?