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Plena El Obispo

Plena Music

Plena is one of Puerto Rico’s native music rhythms. It is the music of southern, coastal Puerto Rico, especially around the city of Ponce. First appearing around the end of the 19th century, plena lyrics concentrate on providing information about contemporary events so it’s nickname became “el periodico cantao” (the sung newspaper). Originally plena was a sung accompanied by Spanish tambourines called panderos; later frame drums and guiro were added, and more contemporary plena saw the addition of horns. Plena songs are characterized by the repetition of phrases. 

The “El Obispo” Plena

One of the most popular plena songs is “El Obispo” (or “The Bishop”), which narrates the story of a Spanish bishop that came to Ponce.  The song was written in the early 1900s, coinciding wit the arrival of a Spanish bishop to Puerto Rico. The song was ingenuous in apparent ingeniousness, narrated from the point of vie of an innocent, starstruck child. Satirizing the cleric’s unpriestly appearance and behavior, “El Obispo” caused a huge scandal and was officially banned. The author of this song is unknown and many versions exist. The one we include below has scandalous verses.

El Obispo Lyrics in Spanish

Mamita, mira el obispo,
el obispo llegó de Roma
Mamita, ti tu lo vieras,
que cosa linda, qué cosa mona

Dien que no bebe ron,
pero lo bebe por cuarterolas.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

El obispo juega topos,
se emborracha y se enamora.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

Tiene los dientes de oro,
y en los de abajo tiene coronas.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

Y dicen las hermanitas
del Sagrado Corazón:
Muchachas tengan cuidado,
que ese obispo es un león.

El obispo se emborracha,
juega topos y se enamora.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

El Obispo Lyrics in English

Mommy, look at the Bishop,
the bishop arrived from Rome.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

They say he doesn’t drink rum,
but he drinks it by the quarter-cask.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

The bishop shoots crap,
he gets drunk and he chases women.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

He has gold teeth,
and the bottom ones have crowns.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

And thus say the sisters
from Sacred Heart:
Girls, be careful,
because that bishop is a lion.

The bishop gets drunk,
he shoots crap and he chases women.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

References

My Music is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities

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