HALF A CENTURY LATER THE WORLD CONTINUES TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE DOMINICAN SONG “POR AMOR”

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A post by Peter Jordens.

As Marta Florián of EFE reports, “Por amor” [For Love], which has been interpreted by artists like Placido Domingo and Gloria Estefan and is generally considered the most popular Dominican song, turns 50. Its composer, Rafael Solano, celebrates the international success of the song ‘with satisfaction’ but also ‘surprise.’

“Por amor” was played for the first time by the Dominican singer Niní Cáffaro and has been recorded in English and even Russian. Five decades ago it emerged ‘naturally,’ but the composer had to make certain adjustments upon the advice of his friends, because of its particular religious content. Solano considers himself a person ‘of the church’; he went to church as a child and learned to play the piano with priests; he therefore acknowledges that the original version of his world-famous song ‘was significantly influenced by’ his years in the church.

The devoted musician, singer-songwriter, composer and former Dominican Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has received multiple awards, including a Latin Grammy for Excellence in 2016.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the song, several activities are being organized both in the Dominican Republic and in the United States, and a documentary about Solano’s work will be presented in the Dominican Republic.

Solano says that he had always wondered why the Dominican Republic did not have a song that was known worldwide, whereas other Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba did. Solano, born on April 10, 1931 in the tourist resort of Puerto Plata (in the north of the Dominican Republic), said however that he had ‘absolutely never’ imagined that he himself would be the composer ‘of a song known in the entire world.’

“Por amor” was performed for the first time by Niní Cáffaro at the Dominican Song Festival in 1968, and he finished in first place. Solano recalls that experience: “I wrote the lyrics, the music and the arrangement and I conducted the orchestra. Already during rehearsals, everybody realized that it was my song, but could not say so because it was anonymous.” Solano has launched the career of many Dominican singers, including the popular merenguero Fernando Villalona.

Despite the resounding success of the song, Solano does not consider it his masterpiece and believes that “musically speaking” other songs of his, such as “Primavera para el mundo” and “El sonido de tu voz” are ‘more interesting.’ “Por amor”, he says, ‘is a simple song,’ therefore ‘it is very easy for people to remember the lyrics.’

The Dominican master, who directed a chorus of children in the Church of Puerto Plata at the age of 13 and in 1955 wrote his first song, “Perdidamente enamorado,” ‘cannot imagine’ life without music. With music ‘one expresses what words cannot.’ ‘The human being holds many feelings inside which he/she does not express, and the only way to say certain things is through music.’ Music is not mere entertainment; it about listening to and trying to converse with the composer; it is about hearing what he/she is saying and what he/she wants to express,’ says Solano.

A month away from turning 87, Solano continues to write because, according to him, music is ‘a passion’ and ‘neither genetics nor science can explain where its appeal comes from.’

For the original article (in Spanish), go to https://www.efe.com/efe/america/entrevistas/medio-siglo-despues-la-cancion-dominicana-por-amor-sigue-enamorando-al-mundo/50000489-3551440.

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