(Leslie Cartaya, Steve Roitstein © Riot Music (ASCAP) & Rolling Pin Music (BMI) all rights reserved.
Crescencio era un hombre honesto que vivía en Pinar del Río
donde tenía un bohío y una cosecha de anón
Cansado de arar la tierra quiso irse a la ciudad
pues tenía curiosidad de ver como allí vivían
Con su sombrero de paja se fue a la terminal
donde hasta la capital un tren lo trasladaría
Y allí comenzó la historia del güajiro que creía
que el tren iba por la vía halado por cinco bueyes
Ay que barbaridad, miren Crescencio en la ciudad
paseando por El Prado, Crescencio Pérez en la ciudad
Cuando llegó a la ciudad no creía sus oidos
todo este horroroso ruido no podía ser verdad
Que son esos carretones que pasan a toda mecha
mas rápidos que una flecha corriendo por los caminos
Que cosa tan peligrosa Dios mío que desparpajo
en este santo relajo todo está patas arriba
Hay bohíos de muchos pisos que hasta tienen escalera
y justo frente en la acera niños duermen en el suelo (Coro)
La gente pasa y me empuja y ni me piden permiso
casi me tiran al piso si no me quito del medio
Después de ese apretón y de tanta empujadera
buscando la billetera no la encuentro en el bolsillo
Si esta es la ciudad famosa me voy pa’ Pinar del Río
me quedo con mi bohío donde todo es más bonito
Su tren agarró contento y regresó a su campito
Se quedó allí tranquilito con su cosecha de anón (Coro)
Crescencio was an honest man that lived in Pinar del Río
where he had a hut and a harvest of anon fruit
Tired of working the land, he wanted to go to the city
He was curious to see how they lived there
With his straw hat on, he went to the terminal
Where he’d get to the capital transferred by train
This begins the story of the country man that believed
that trains moved on tracks pulled by five oxen
Man, what a scene, look at Crescencio in the city
Walking around the Prado, Crescencio Pérez in the city
When he got to the city he couldn’t believe his ears
All of these horrible noises couldn’t be real
What are these wagons racing by me
Faster than arrows racing down the road?
How dangerous, my God, what a mess!
In this blessed chaos everything is upside down
There are multi-storied huts, and they even have stairs
And right out front on the sidewalk kids sleep on the ground (Chorus)
People bump me as they pass by without saying “excuse me”
They’d almost knock me over if I didn’t get out of the way
After that mad crush and getting pushed around so much
I reach for my wallet and it’s not in my pocket
If this is the famous city I’m going back to Pinar del Río
I’ll stick with my hut where everything is prettier
So he happily got back on the train and returned to his little country home
Where he lived peacefully with his harvest of anon (Chorus)
NOTES by Steve Roitstein
This song was born from the desire to retell the classic “There’s no place like home” theme with a Cuban twist. Since I’ve always heard Cubans say “Ay, que barbaridad” and that rhymed with “ciudad”, the chorus lyrics began to take shape. But we needed the person’s name. Leslie and I struggled to think of a typical Cuban guajiro name, and then it occurred to me: Leslie’s grandfather is from Pinar del Rio, and his name is Crescencio. Though the song isn’t about him, he was always thrilled and proud that we used his name. We sang this song at his birthday parties every year until he passed away a few years ago.
After finishing the chorus lyrics, we started trying them over various chords and beats, looking for a melody. When I tripped on the bassline, that was it. The pizzicato and bowed violins are my salute to all of my favorite charanga bands, particularly Jose Fajardo and Larry Harlow. And the tres loop, played by Manuel Trujillo, gives the song a nice guajiro vibe. Leslie Cartaya, who grew up in a small town in Cuba, makes the images of the song come alive as she tells the story.
This song is a perfect example of how Ed Calle fulfills the sax’s role in PALO! Since we don’t rely on brass arrangements, we replace that with a sax. Of course, this requires a great musician, which is why I asked Ed to be in the band. He alters his approach between improviser, brass section, rhythm section member, and vocal harmonizer. Playing with Ed in the band is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
The rhythms that Philbert and Raymer lay down on conga and timbal propel the song without sounding cliché. These two guys, both astounding musicians in their own right, have developed such an incredible rapport that they seem to think as one person!
Check out the video.