World Circuit Records is reissuing El Carretero, the definitive collection of Guillermo Portabales’ classic ’60s recordings, on October 4. Originally compiled and released in 1996, it is now remastered and available on vinyl for the first time, alongside new CD & digital formats.
Today World Circuit presents a visual interpretation of title track ‘El Carretero,’ which brings to life the album’s artwork illustrations created by illustrator Linda Scott for the original release in 1996, and features both the Spanish and translated English lyrics to this timeless guajira classic. Watch the animated lyric video for “El Carretero’ at https://youtu.be/Xap2p9LkKus.
Guillermo Portabales was a unique performer of the Cuban guajira rhythm, whose distinctive voice and guitar style helped define and popularize the easy swaying style. Born in Cuba, Portabales’ music went on to become hugely popular in both North and South America and more recently in West Africa; ‘El Carretero,’ one of his most famous songs, has been covered by a variety of artists including Senegalese artists Orchestra Baobab and Cheikh Lô. His music also had a significant influence on the artists who eventually came together as Buena Vista Social Club, with a rendition of ‘El Carretero’ featuring on their eponymous album.
The word that people associate with Guillermo Portales—guajira—is much more than a musical style. It defines the people, the life and the music of rural Cuba, especially the center of the island where large numbers of immigrants from the Canary Islands brought with them the roots of an incredible tradition of improvised verses set to music.
Guillermo Portabales created his own version of the guajira, slowing down the rhythm and accentuating the melody, adding lyrics that reflected the world that guajiro poets described in their punto verses. Portabales’ style, which became known as ‘guajira de salon,’ is still popular throughout Latin America, partly because nostalgia for country life is something that still pervades the soul of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia and other countries in the region.