What’s the classic song “La Bamba” all about?

A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

Dear Straight Dope:

I've always liked Richie Valens' classic, "La Bamba." The problem is, my Spanish isn't quite up to speed, and I can't understand what he's singing about. Could you help me out on this? An English translation would be helpful, also.

Songbird replies:

No problema, Arnold. “La Bamba,” a Mexican folk song from the state of Veracruz (on the Gulf coast), is a favorite of mariachi groups everywhere (long before Richie Valens covered it). Here are the Spanish lyrics:

Para bailar La Bamba. Para bailar La Bamba se necessita una poca de gracia.

Una poca de gracia y otra cosita y arriba y arriba.

Ay! Arriba y arriba. Por ti sere por ti sere por ti sere.

Yo no soy marinero. Yo no soy marinero, soy capitan, soy capitan, soy capitan.

And now for the English translation:

To dance La Bamba. To dance La Bamba you need to be a little bit funny.

A little bit funny and another little thing — get going, get going! (literally ‘get up and get up’)

Ay! Get going, get going. I’ll be for you, I’ll be for you, I’ll be for you.

I’m not a sailor. I’m not a sailor, I’m a captain, I’m a captain, I’m a captain.

What exactly does “La Bamba” mean? Consider: “Bambolear” means swinging or swaying, and a “bambollero/bambollera” is a someone who likes to boast (e.g., “I’m not a sailor, I’m a captain!”).

The song is a play on words. Spanish words.

Perhaps that’s why it’s better left in Spanish.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.

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