Chan Chan – Cuban Music

Chan Chan – Cuban Music.  Cuba has a well-earned tradition for fantastic and ubiquitous music.  Musicians magically appear, it seemed everywhere.  On the street corner, on a park bench, in a café, or the hotel lobby.  They appeared solo or in large groups.  And throughout my stay in Cuba, I was tenaciously followed by Chan Chan.  Chan Chan is an enchanting and hypnotical song that was seemingly played by all musicians incessantly.  And when I hear the song now, I am magically teleported back to Cuba.  The sense of sound can be a powerful trigger.

havana music

The strumming of the guitars.  The melancholy horn.  The rhythmic plucking of the bass.  This is what Chan Chan sounds like.


Chan Chan was composed by Cuban guitarist, Compay Segundo, in 1987, but rose to fame when performed by the Bueno Vista Social Club in the 1990s.

Compay Segundo said this about his creation: I didn’t compose Chan Chan, I dreamt it. I dream of music. I sometimes wake up with a melody in my head, I hear the instruments, all very clear. I look over the balcony and I see nobody, but I hear it as if it was played on the street. I don’t know what it can be. One day I woke up hearing those four sensitive notes, I gave them a lyric inspired by a children’s tale from my childhood, Juanica y Chan Chan, and you see, now it’s sung everywhere.”

cuban musicians

And here are the lyrics in both English and Spanish.

Chan Chan

De Alto Cedro voy para Marcané Llego a Cueto voy para Mayarí

El cariño que te tengo Yo no lo puedo negar Se me sale la babita Yo no lo puedo evitar

Cuando Juanica y Chan Chan En el mar cernían arena Como sacudia el ‘jibe’ A Chan Chan le daba pena

Limpia el camino de pajas Que yo me quiero sentar En aquel tronco que veo Y así no puedo llegar

De Alto Cedro voy para Marcané Llego a Cueto voy para Mayarí

Chan Chan

From Alto Cedro I go to Marcané,
Then to Cueto, I go to Mayarí

The love I have for you
I can’t deny it
I drool all over
And I can’t help it

When Juanica and Chan Chan
Sifted sand in the sea
The way she was shaking the “sieve”*
Was driving Chan Chan mad

Clear the road of straws
‘Cause I want to sit down
On this trunk that I see
And I can’t arrive there that way

From Alto Cedro I go to Marcané,
Then to Cueto, I go to Mayarí

cuban musicians

Check out these other stories about Cuba! About revolution! The highlights of Havana! And the facts you need to know.

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2 thoughts on “Chan Chan – Cuban Music

  1. Pingback: Trinidad - A Must-See - GlobalGazGlobalGaz

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