Vale Diomedes Diaz

by Bernard O'Shea

In the past week or so I heard a lot of unusual music (unusual to me, that is) on internet radio from South America. My favourite app, Shazam, identified it as Diomedes Diaz. “Man, this guy is popular!” I thought. But I later read that he died of a heart attack (peacefully, in his bed, which I suppose is the best way to go) a couple of days before Christmas, and so much of what I heard was played in tribute and in memoriam.

I have a confession to make and you can mock me for it if you wish: one of my favourite musical instruments is the accordion. (I am also fond of the bagpipes but will not hear a bad word spoken about them, OK?). The accordion is prominent in the type of Colombian folk music that was Diaz’s specialty, vallenato. The track that attracted me most, primarily because of the accordion melody, was Lluvia de Verano (Summer Rain), from an album released in 1978, La Locura (Madness). Here is a live performance of it that I found on YouTube, but I have no idea who is playing the accordion. The occasion, according to the information supplied on YouTube, is Colombia’s famous carnival, Barranquilla (held in the city of the same name).

If you prefer the cleaner sound of a studio recording, here it is, although the tempo seems slightly slower to me. The accordion player on La Locura was Juancho Rois.

Diaz was a controversial figure, as you can see from this biography of him on Wikipedia. He had a prolific output, judging by this discography. Note how the accordion player is also given a billing on each album.

If you want to know more of his music, you can find complete sets of his 30 Exitos (hits) on YouTube. I have always wondered why “exito” was the word for a hit in Spanish, and it is also used in Portuguese-speaking Brazil. A language blog I follow, Le Cul Entre Les Deux Chaises, had an explanation for that recently in its Word Mystery series. Check it out on  this link.

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