Song of the Week: I Can March

Song of the Week

SOTW - I Can March (Paraguay) 

“I Can March” is The Music Class’s adaptation of the Paraguayan children’s song “El Barquito Chiquitito.” I had NO idea this song was from Paraguay because it just sounds like an American march! Rob was inspired to adapt this super cute and catchy Paraguayan melody into a marching activity for class. So now, please enjoy the original version of “El Barquito Chiquitito” in both Spanish and English below!

Can you hear “I Can March” buried in there? You can hear it a bit more clearly in this version because it has the same straightforward duple beat that we used in “I Can March.” However, the Cantico’s version has a layering of duple and triple rhythms that more closely mirrors the traditional Paraguayan polka. You read that right, Paraguayan polka. 

Polka…. Accompanied by harps! POLKA ACCOMPANIED BY HARPS! Neither of these things was what I was expecting when I started researching traditional music from Paraguay. This is a story of missionaries and colonization, and then reclamation and the birth of a totally unique musical style.

Here’s my attempt at a super quick, simplified history: 

The harp was first introduced to Paraguay by Jesuit missionaries from Spain in the 16th century. The Spanish brought both their language and their harps to the indigenous Paraguayans, or Guaranis. When the missionaries were expelled in the 18th century, many frustrated Guaranis destroyed their harps! But eventually, the harp was reworked and reclaimed to produce the beautiful and unique Paraguayan harp. The Paraguayan harp differs from the European harp in that it is a Diatonic instrument (like playing only the white keys on a piano) with no pedals. The harp is now the national instrument of Paraguay.

Later, the polka was introduced to Paraguay in the 19th century and again was adapted into something really beautiful and unique. The Paraguayan polka has both duple and triple beats along with a lot of syncopation, whereas the European polka is straight duple. It’s also commonly accompanied by the Paraguayan harp. Pretty fascinating right? Let’s watch an example, along with the seriously impressive tradition of balancing things on your head while dancing!

Woohoo!! I hope you’re enjoying these fascinating dives into music from around the world because I sure am!! Buckle up because we have 6 more stops to go!! 

For more incredible examples of the Paraguayan harp, click HERE and HERE
For more Paraguayan polka, click HERE and HERE

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