This past Thursday, September 25, CLAC presented scholar, songwriter and performer Raquel Rivera and members of her group Ojos de Sofia in a program entitled “Decimas de Amargue and Other Love Songs”.
The program took place at Trayes Hall, Douglass Campus Center on the Douglass Residential College from 7 to 9 PM in front of an enthusiastic crowd of students, faculty and staff.
The event began with an introduction by Raquel Rivera about the centuries-old poetic form known as décima, a strophic form composed of ten eight-syllable lines that dates back to medieval times in Spain and Northern Africa.
Dr. Rivera, a sociologist and currently a researcher at University of New Mexico, proceeded to discuss the decima’s contemporary popular expressions in Puerto Rican jibaro music and Dominican bachata.
Guitarist and musical director of the Ojos de Sofia Bryan Vargas then addressed musical aspects of the Puerto Rican seis con decima and how similar melodic structures from the seis can also be found in Dominican bachata. Singer Anabellie Rivera talked about the role of the Cuban bolero as a form that during the hayday of radio in the 1930s, which helped spread the popularity of the decima and other related poetic forms such as la copla throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
The trio then performed a selection of original compositions by Raquel Rivera, many from their recent CD Las Siete Salves de la Magdalena (Seven Songs of Praise for Mary Magdalena), as well as arrangements of bachata songs, milongas and boleros that use decima as the basis for their lyrics.
The full Ojos de Sofia ensemble features bass, an additional guitar and more percussion. Yet, this smaller group of three voices, acoustic guitar and guiro (a gourd scrapper instrument played by Raquel Rivera) created a full sounding ensemble.
Raquel Rivera’s high, plaintive nasal tone perfectly suited the traditional stylings of the salves and bachata songs, while her sibling’s earthy, mid-range singing provided a great vehicle to the boleros and milongas.
Bryan Vargas’ able guitar fingerpicking and rhythmic strumming, along with his supportive vocal harmonies, richly complemented each of the lead singer’s renditions.
To learn more about Ojos de Sofia, please visit their website at www.ojosdesofia.com.