More Music for a Sunday: So pretty, so plagiarized

The other day, El Duderino uncovered a shocker: A German group called Cordalis (a father/son/daughter group apparently, never heard of ’em till now) has plagiarized this beautiful song by Bolivia’s revered folk group, Kalamarka:

…which I took it on myself to translate. (Apologies if the Aymara words are wrong, I found several different versions and just went with the ones that looked most like what I heard.)

Cuando Florezca el Chuño (When The Potatoes Are In Bloom)

If your parents hate me now

It’s because I did you so wrong

If my panpipes don’t whistle now

It’s because you’ve been gone so long

They say you’re coming back, come back

Like the river to the lake

They say you’re coming back, come back

Like the river to the lake

Human pi, kayan pi

When the potatoes are in bloom

Augua yogua

When the potatoes are in bloom

Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten

The land where you were born

Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten

The land where you were born

They say you’re coming back, come back

Like the river to the lake

They say you’re coming back, come back

Like the river to the lake

Human pi, kayan pi

When the potatoes are in bloom

Augua yogua

When the potatoes are in bloom

As you can see, it’s a very succinct, compact song about lost love and–not coincidentally–betrayal of country. The lover mourns his sweetheart, who has left not only him, but all of her native Bolivia behind. This is kind of interesting when you consider what Cordalis has done to it:

Gawd…even for a German Schlager (a very cheesy genre–it means, roughly, “hit parade”), that’s just low.

I wanted to translate the lyrics to show you just how banal they are compared to the original, but I can’t find them anywhere on the web now. I don’t suppose it matters. The irony of ripping off a very Bolivian love song about not forgetting one’s roots, and turning it into a generic, globalized “dance” tune with hackneyed lyrics, should be apparent anyoldhow.

EDIT, October 28: See comments below. I’ve learned (thanks, Maria Eugenia!) that the chorus can now be translated as follows:

They say you’re coming back, you’ll be back

Like the river to the lake

Me with you, you with me

When the dried potatoes bloom…

Which makes me wonder if she’ll ever be back. It’s an ironic statement, as my commenter points out, because rivers only flow one way and can’t go back to their headwaters again. Unless it evaporates, the river won’t be coming back; dried potatoes, for obvious reasons, can’t bloom. In other words, it’s a song about futility and being unable to come home again. Even more poignant when you consider how many Bolivian campesinos, particularly indigenous ones from the Altiplano, have had to migrate to the cities and lowlands in order not to starve to death as the glaciers and alpine lakes dry up due to climate change (a product of capitalism).

I love a song that makes me think (as well as being so lovely!), even if it ends up making my head and heart ache…

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2 Responses to More Music for a Sunday: So pretty, so plagiarized

  1. Maria Eugenia says:

    hi,i just want to correct some parts of your translation:
    – They say your coming back, You’ll come back like the river goes into the lake(it means she will never come back because rivers go forwards, can not go backwards).
    – other thing that must be mentioned is that Chuño is a dried potato that is made in order to preserve the product for a later use. so, this product will never bloom. So, again it means that she’ll never come back.
    – It is written “jumanpi, nayanpi” that means with you and with me. “Qanwan, ñuqanwan (this is pronounced ñoqanwan)” mean the same, but these last words are Quechua, the first ones are Aymara.
    I’m from Bolivia and i’m terribly disgusted, this is not the first time that a group does something like that. The same happened with the Kjarkas’s song “Llorando se fue” because a Brazilian group changed into lambada. After that we heard that in a presentation in Europe, a Chilean group changed just one word of the song “Viva mi patria Bolivia” for “viva mi patria chilena” and probably was the worst because this song is considered our second anthem.
    So, I think that any other group that want to use Bolivian music should do it in a good way, I’m sure that there will be no problem if they do things rigth.

  2. That was great info, thanks so much!
    The part about *dried* potatoes really makes me wonder how likely she is to come back–dried potatoes can’t grow or bloom anymore. Meaning there’s an additional layer of meaning there. Which impresses me even more–this song is really a very compact statement about futility, isn’t it? (I wonder if I shouldn’t edit the entry to reflect that…)
    Likewise, the two lines in Quechua and Aymara–I guess I could translate them “me with you, you with me” to preserve the rhythm of the song and make it make more sense!
    I remembered how confused I was when I watched the Kjarkas video and then saw alongside it the one by Kaoma, in which it was pretty obvious that they had just translated the Spanish into Portuguese and passed it off as their own. I wondered whose rendition had come first, especially since the Kaoma translation was supposedly a “lambada” song (remember that craze?) and the Kjarkas video happened to have two people dancing a lambada in it.
    I’m disgusted, too, with the theft. If Cordalis at least given credit where it was due, they probably wouldn’t be in legal trouble now. They claim they mistook it for a traditional, uncopyrighted song when it wasn’t.
    Again, thanks for the info–my translation is greatly improved by it!

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