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BoRev Musicology: Los Gaiteros del Pueblo

The Doctor is in! Every fortnight month whenever or so, The University of Iowa's own ethno-musicologist T.M. "Tomás" Scruggs classes the up the joint with his exploration of the diverse sounds of Venezuela from just about every region, class, sect, ethnicity and political persuasion going. Check out our archive of previous songs, or click here to listen to Dr. Scruggs's one-hour audio-ethno-musical journey through the country.

This Week: We head up to oil country. Listen to Los Gaiteros del Pueblo. Liner notes and lyrics after the jump.

The Cut: "El soberano"
The Band: Los Gaiteros del pueblo


Liner Notes (by T.M. Scruggs):

This band is from the epicenter of the gaita tradition, Maracaibo, the nation’s second largest city in the far northwest that burgeoned so rapidly due to the proximity of the nation’s main oil fields. The musicians play on the side, and several have jobs related to the oil industry. No relation to nearby Colombian gaita, this Afro-Venezuelan style is a musical powderkeg that begs for more exposure and circulation in the “world music” marketplace. The sharp, metallic sound of the rhythm section is typical of the modern gaita style. Gaita lyrics very often contain social commentary and criticism of those in power, a tradition that goes back many decades. These lyrics proclaim that the sovereign people, el soberano, makes its own decisions and will protect itself from any and all that try and derail them, using elections to “castigate” those that would ignore the wishes of the majority. Note the sexist phrase in the chorus to denote being in charge, similar to the now outdated U.S. expression of who “wears the pants in the family.”

El soberano Los Gaiteros del pueblo


all transcriptions and translations by T.M. Scruggs

Cuatro décadas pasaron de una vida triste y gris

el soberano infeliz porque siempre lo embudieron

Pero el pueblo les cobró con votos castigadores

ya Chávez en Miraflores nuestra gente lo sentó.


El soberano decide a quien quita y a quien pone

porque tiene pantalones y solo justicia pide

y sus votos son lecciones

pa’ enseñar a quien lo olvide. (x2)

A que ver al soberano cuando en verdad se desgusta

al más valiente lo asusta y lo hace correr temprano

El soberano es obrero, es mujer profesional,

y hasta reventón social como el 4 de febrero.


Este pueblo -- por ahora – con Chávez dice “presente”

y le pide al presidente su bienestar sin demora,

El soberano no elude sus deberes y le da

mil gracias a la verdad del gobierno que le ayude.


The Sovereign People--The Gaiteros of the People


all transcriptions and translations by T.M. Scruggs

The Sovereign People--The Gaiteros of the People

Four decades passed of life sad and gray

the sovereign people [are] dissatisfied because they were always stuffed full [of BS]

But the people got back with castigating votes

now our people put Chavez in Miraflores.


The sovereign people decide who to put in or take out

because they wear the pants and only ask for justice

and their votes are lessons

to teach those who might forget. (x2)

One should see the sovereign people when they truly become disgusted:

the most brave gets scared and is run off right away

The sovereign people is the worker, is the female professional

and even an uprising like the 4th of February.*


This people – for now** – joins with Chávez to say “Present [and accounted for]”

and asks for the president’s health without delay

The sovereign people don’t shirk their duties and give

many thanks for having the government that helps them.


*refers to Chávez’s first 1992 attempt at coup after recently elected President Carlos Andrés Pérez reversed his campaign pledges. After serving time Chávez began to work for the now successful civilian-military alliance.

this small phrase “for now” is very famous, for it refers to Chávez’s public announcement on live television during the 1992 coup to the rest of the military involved, calling on them to surrender and lay down their arms because “for now” their objectives were unobtainable. Lieutenant Coronel Chávez’s ending of fighting as soon as defeat appeared certain and especially his full acceptance of personal responsibility were novel for anyone in the national elite leadership. His short television appearance introduced him to the general population and, contrary to government design, drew positive reactions to his sincerity: admitting any level of failure much less taking responsibility for it was unheard of from national figures.


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