I am delighted to see the Tuna, a male musical group, much like mariachis, whose members play musical instruments and sing Spanish folk songs. The group members are typically university students and are dressed in short pants that are both wide and tight at the knee, tights/long socks (green for apprentices), a blouse, a jacket, and a cloak decorated with colorful ribbons and patches. They perform to keep the tradition alive. However, the groups originated as a way for university students to perform in exchange for small amounts of money or food.
The tambourine and guitar are key to the joyful and playful serenades that engage this audience enjoying nightfall on the plaza outside of Santo Domingo church. As they sing the traditional “Clavelitos,” I realize that I learned the word carnation (the title of the song) this summer, and I smile at the part that refers to a carnation a woman wears in her hair.
In the dark this evening and caught up in the crowd clapping and singing along, I realize the connection between playing music and playfulness–the pure pleasure of these merry singers as well as what they stir in us.
Mocita, dame el clavel, dame el clavel de tu boca
Para eso no hay que tener mucha vergüenza ni poca
Yo te daré un cascabel, te lo prometo, mocita
Si tu me das esa miel que llevas en la boquita
Clavelitos, clavelitos, clavelitos de mi corazón
Yo te traigo clavelitos colorados igual que un tizón
Si algún día clavelitos no lograra poderte traer
No te creas que ya no te quiero, es que no te los pude coger
La otra tarde a media luz vi tu boquita de guinda
Yo no he visto en Santa Cruz una boquita más linda
Y luego, al ver el clavel que llevabas en el pelo
Mirándolo creí ver un pedacito de cielo.
Girl, give me the carnation, give me the carnation from your mouth
For that, don’t be ashamed
I will give you a little bell, I promise you, girl
if you give me that honey you carry in your mouth
Little carnations, little carnations, little carnations of my heart
I bring you little carnations colored like a firebrand
If someday I am unable to bring you little carnations
Do not think I do not love you, it is that I could not pick them for you
The other evening in the half-light I saw your cherry mouth
I have not seen in Santa Cruz such a pretty mouth
And then, seeing the carnation you wore in your hair,
Looking at it, I thought I saw a bit of heaven.
- Listen to Tuna perform “Clavelitos;” let yourself get carried away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6TRYfSyYwQ.